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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #348: Emily Sharood and Johnny Dickinson and Dr. Dan Landry

Speaker 1:                                                     You are listening to Love Maine Radio hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studio of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home+Design, Old Port, Ageless and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio show number 348 airing for the first time on May 20th 2018. Today, we speak with Emily Sharood of Mousam Valley Mushrooms and woodworker Johnny Dickinson. We also speak with Dr. Dan Landry who has his own clinical practice and is an advocate for health care reform within Maine and throughout the United States. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                     where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life through free advice, workshops, and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area. Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the Old Port 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of men through solo shows in its newly expanded space including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Lisa Belisle:                          Emily Sharood is the sales and marketing director at Mousam Valley Mushrooms. And Johnny Dickinson is a woodworker and owner of Winter Hill Design. Thanks for coming in today.

Johnny D.:                              Thanks for having us.

Emily Sharood:                    Thank you.

Lisa Belisle:                          And you brought with you these really beautiful organic Italian oyster mushrooms. They’re in this wonderful cardboard box and they’re so pretty, I want to take them out and start cooking with them or at least just admiring them. You guys had a lot of time to admire the mushrooms.

Emily Sharood:                    Absolutely. Our Italian oysters have a almost like a chicken teriyaki flavor to them. I’ll cook them whenever we’re doing shows or we’re introducing them to a new chef or an institution. And people will think that I’ve done some sort of spectacular cooking thing with them, but really it’s just simple salt pepper and sauté in a pan for about 15 to 20 minutes. And really it’s just the flavor of the mushroom coming out that kind of has that umami sort of flavor to.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s very interesting that mushrooms don’t all taste like mushrooms, they taste like different whatever they are whether it’s Italian oyster or whether it’s a hen of the woods or whether it’s shiitake. Is this specific to the type of mushroom? Is it specific to where they’re raised? Why do they all have different flavors?

Emily Sharood:                    Mushrooms are a really neat protein in the sense that they are able to absorb whatever sort of flavors and oils that you cook them in. Their tissue structure is similar like a sponge, it’ll just soak up all those flavors in the pan. But then they also do have their own individual tastes as well. And that really does come from the substrate that they’re grown in. It’s important to us at Mousam Valley Mushrooms to ensure that we’re growing them on hardwoods as well as using cottonseed holes and other agricultural byproducts so they taste as natural and organic as possible. And it really shows and reflects in not only the way they look, but in the way they taste as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          Why mushrooms of all things?

Emily Sharood:                    Well, I’d have to start back to the beginning about seven years ago at this point in my brother Robert’s backyard in Sanford, Maine. We were starting a permaculture garden, he was suffering from stomach issues at the time and doctors weren’t really sure as to what it was exactly. Rather than going the pharmaceutical route, he decided to begin growing his own food, primarily meats like poultry and rabbits as well as vegetables and fruits. And at the basis of this permaculture garden was the mushroom, the mycelium root. It helped turn that sandy Sanford soil into this rich loam that allowed us to create such a garden. Not only was it supplying us with good soil to grow the other varieties of foods, but it also allowed us to feed the poultry and the ducks with the insects that were attracted to the substrate.

And then also in turn, we were able to eat and have these amazing mushrooms on our dish. I was going to school for marketing and design at the time and then Robert was going to school for business management. And we were both seniors and looking to create our senior thesis and came up with the idea to collaborate. And I started doing the marketing and the graphic work and designing a website and a mock logo. And we came up with the name Farming Fungi LLC. And then it transitioned into the brand Mousam Valley Mushrooms once we ended up locating this barn, a dairy barn that hadn’t been used in about 50 years right in Springvale, Maine.

As it started to develop, we approached my father John on his 50th birthday along with his L.L.Bean slippers, he also got a business plan to farming fungi. And he started doing market research, his background is in entrepreneurialship and working with startup software companies. He started doing some market research and really saw that there was this niche market in the New England area where there was no specialty local mushrooms. It was really just the agaricus strains like the white button and the Portobello mushroom, which is mostly based out of Pennsylvania. We approached Whole Foods and Hannaford to find out if they would be interested in purchasing a product and selling this to their consumer. And they were on board with it.

We started looking into applications, grant applications through USDA for marketing as well as an MTIC grant to create the grow rooms. And then once we found the barn again in Springvale, Maine, we started creating the grow rooms using a proprietary software system that my father John helped design with Mackenzie Designs Engineering. And from there, we started growing a few pounds of mushrooms all the way up to about 3,000 pounds of mushrooms a week at this point. And that’s within a five to six-year span.

Lisa Belisle:                          Johnny what is your relationship to-

Johnny D.:                              She’s my fiancée.

Lisa Belisle:                          Okay. Well, I was going to ask about to the mushrooms, but okay. Your relationship to Emily she’s your fiancee. But you have a bachelor in fine arts from the Maine College of Art in woodworking and furniture design and you build the structures that hold the mushroom blocks for your mushrooms.

Johnny D.:                              Ever since the mushroom farm started, I’ve always just been there to help out with whatever I can. That usually entails building and creating shelving units and basically anything made out of wood. I’ve always been there to help out and harvest the mushrooms and gone to lots of food shows with them. I’ve kind of had a, I don’t know, a side employment kind of. I don’t know what to call it, but just being there on the sidelines helping out because she’s my lady.

Emily Sharood:                    We started out way back in the day foraging for mushrooms. We used to go for trail walks. And at that point in time, Johnny wasn’t so familiar with actually eating mushrooms that have been growing in the woods and one thought I was a little bit crazy when we were … I remember this one time specifically, we were grilling chicken of the woods that we had just foraged off of one of our local paths. And I was so excited that we had found it together and I had cooked it up over the fire. And I was like, “Oh, here, try this.” And Johnny he was like no. And at that moment, I was like, “Wow, I’m not sure if this is going to work.” And with that, he took his first bite of chicken of the woods and we haven’t really looked back since.

Johnny D.:                              Yeah. That was a turning point for me. I like mushrooms now.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s a good thing, it sounds like. It could have been a problem if that hadn’t happened.

Johnny D.:                              I think there was a little name-calling on it going to on a bit if I didn’t try the mushroom, I might have been a loser. And that wasn’t an option.

Lisa Belisle:                          No, nobody likes that. Why did you not like mushrooms is it just that when you were growing up, you didn’t eat a lot of them or?

Johnny D.:                              Yeah. You know kids are picky with food and mushrooms just always seem slippery and slimy and unappetizing. I always stayed away from them, I always avoided any food that had mushrooms. I would pick them out, but at best I would just not eat something that had mushrooms in it. And it took eating a really good mushroom that was cooked the right way for me to appreciate it. And now I love mushrooms and I cook them all the time. I think with art or with food or with anything, if you experience it the right way or in a good way that looks really good and tastes really good, you’ll appreciate it.

Emily Sharood:                    Whenever anybody tells me that they don’t like mushrooms, I have to agree that I don’t particularly like button mushrooms or even Portobello because they’re grown in dirt whereas our mushrooms are grown on this wood substrate so it has this really amazing earthy woody texture to it and flavor that’s just really appetizing. And the other the other thing is that people say, oh, it’s too slimy or meaty. What I particularly choose to cook them is by tearing them up into smaller pieces and allowing them to crisp up in the dish. It’s really all about how you cook it. And I would recommend to the people out there who feel like it might be too slimy for them would be to have them cut in smaller pieces and to cook them longer in the pan until they get nice and crisp. And that’s a really great way to enjoy them.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, it’s funny because as you’re talking, I’m thinking about the difference between a heirloom tomato freshly picked off the vine in July and a refrigerated tomato that has come from California on a truck in the middle of winter. And there’s a big difference between one or the other. They both have their function if you wanted tomato in the middle of the winter, that’s the kind you get. But it shouldn’t be that surprising to us that more industrially grown mushrooms are going to have a really different flavor and profile than the ones that you are growing.

Emily Sharood:                    Yeah. And we try to bring both of those aspects together. You’re able to purchase our mushrooms year-round because we do grow them all indoors. And you don’t have to worry about the bugs, but you get the same feeling and taste and texture as you would if you had just forged it right off of your favorite walking path. But we’ve ensured that it’s the right variety to eat and consume and it’s at the perfect time to be picked. It’ll last about five to seven days in your fridge and you’ll have it in time to enjoy.

Lisa Belisle:                          That fortune piece is interesting too because there are some mushrooms that are poisonous. It’s not actually as easy as, “Oh, there’s mushroom growing, I’m going to go pick it and eat it,” you actually have to know what you’re doing. You’ve taken that guesswork out of the equation for people.

Emily Sharood:                    Yes, 100%. And I’d say at this point in time since Johnny is a woodworker and he’s lived here in Maine his whole life that he’s probably a better forager than I am, but don’t telling anyone that.

Johnny D.:                              You just told the world.

Emily Sharood:                    At this point, yeah, I think he is.

Lisa Belisle:                          You didn’t like mushrooms but you were good at finding them, is that what I understand Johnny?

Johnny D.:                              Yeah. I can read the trees and that’s how I go through the forest as I study the way the environment is changing. And I can kind of see I guess through the forest in a way, a different view than most people have is where I can kind of start to predict which direction I need to go to start looking for these specific types of mushrooms that we might be looking for that time of year. Just going from birch tree to birch tree looking for chaga or knowing, oh, there’s some really big old oak trees over there, maybe we’re going to find hen of the woods or chicken of the woods and just kind of guiding myself through that way I think tends to find a lot of mushrooms.

Most of the mushrooms we forage grow on trees or in some kind of symbiotic relationship with trees or they’re a parasite of a tree. If you know the trees, you’re basically identifying the food sources for the mushrooms and finding them that way.

Emily Sharood:                    Yeah. And then for those who are interested in looking for their own mushrooms, I always highly recommend three primary sources for confirmation and starting out with tree mushrooms because tree mushrooms are a lot less likely to be poisonous than ground mushrooms. Looking for oysters would be my go-to, that’s how I first started out, oyster mushrooms.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve mentioned chaga, which I believe originally was in Siberia or other colder weather countries that they were using it for its health benefits. And we now know that in Maine, we have this amazing source of really immune boosting, I guess I’ll just call it food or fungus. Is that the way you would refer to it?

Emily Sharood:                    Chaga is commonly known as a mushroom, it is definitely a fungus. But the chaga itself that we ingest is a sclerotia mass. And it almost looks like burnt bark on a tree as if somebody’s lit the tree on fire. But it’s got more antioxidants than even the pomegranate. It’s also been tested to have anti tumor, anti-cancer properties as well. And you wouldn’t actually eat it because it would be way too woody, you would steep it in tea. Just don’t go past the boiling point or else you’ll kill off the beneficial microflora that’s in there, but steep it in tea and add a little honey, some maple or birch syrup with it, some cinnamon, nutmeg and it’s a really delicious medicinal drink.

Lisa Belisle:                          We’ve talked about the Italian oyster mushrooms, you also offer shiitake and butter oyster in a mix, in a forest medley. Are there different health benefits to each of those types of mushrooms?

Emily Sharood:                    Yeah, absolutely. The shiitake mushroom has anti-inflammatory properties to it. Again, they’re all protein based so they all have that slow-release energy, which is great to have throughout the day. I like to even add mushrooms, I’ll cook the mushrooms up first and then add them to a salad and add an egg on top of that and have that as my start of the day. And it’s just a really great way to have energy throughout. But you can also have them at night too as a side dish as well. They’re really versatile in that way.

Lisa Belisle:                          How about the different tastes of the oyster mushroom versus the shiitake versus the butter?

Emily Sharood:                    Yep, the shiitake mushroom has more of an umami flavor to it. It’s one of our most mushroomy tasting ones. If people are really looking for that potent flavor, I would highly suggest the shiitake. I even like to cook them up nice and crisp again and make a bacon shiitake. If you’re a vegetarian, just use the shiitake themselves with a little bit of olive oil or if you are a bacon lover, I highly recommend cooking up some bacon and then using the bacon fat to cook your shiitake mushrooms. And I doubt it’s going to make it to your plate before it gets off the pan. And then Johnny is an amazing chef, what do you think about the flavors?

Johnny D.:                              I love them all. The shiitake again great with any kind of meat. Their texture is a little meteor as well, they’re a little more robust. The oysters are great with anything, with chicken, with veggies, stir fries, fried rice. The other varieties you grow, the lion’s mane are great with seafood. They kind of almost have a crab meat texture to them poached in butter and just lightly sauteed and served with crab cakes or even mixed into crab cakes. What else did we make those?

Emily Sharood:                    Our scallop, Johnny made an amazing scallop risotto and we added some lion’s mane to that as well and it was delicious. And then going back to the medicinal point, we call the lion’s mane brain mushroom. Not only does it kind of look like a brain in a way when you cut it open, but it actually has great cognitive function and is also being used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s as well as just for anybody who’s looking to think a little bit clearer. I highly suggest lion’s mane as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          I was talking to a forger recently and he mentioned that there’s a man on the west coast who’s doing work with mushrooms and soil detoxification, that mushrooms are very good at kind of, I don’t know soaking up oil spills or taking things out of the environment that aren’t so good for us. That being the case then it seems to make sense that they would just be picking up the good nutrients from the environment that we could then ingest.

Emily Sharood:                    Yep. Going back to the very beginning soil remediation was the big factor for us starting with the mushroom as our product. It’s really important to Mousam Valley Mushrooms to know that we are creating a product that uses agricultural waste necessarily to create a product for us to enjoy and eat. And then also our waste then goes back to other farms and helps remediate their soil because the mushroom root really is great at sequestering water and retaining it and then also releasing it when it is hot enough. It’s really helpful in that sense.

Lisa Belisle:                          It seems like this is a pretty humble thing that we’re talking about, this fungus that grows on trees and on the ground, forest floor. And yet it’s something that your family has decided to build this business around. And the two of you both are focusing so much attention on it. Is this something that you are surprised by? Would you have thought this would be the direction your lives would take?

Johnny D.:                              Not 10 years ago, no. I guess I didn’t really know you at the time, but finishing up high school and getting ready to go to Wentworth Institute of Technology to study industrial design, I pictured myself drawing and designing sports cars and everything like that. And then gradually got kind of tired of the artificiality of it all and realized how much I missed being back home in Maine and being in nature. And that’s when Emily and I kind of met and got together and just kind of both I think transitioned our lives back towards that.

Emily Sharood:                    Yeah, we’re both artists in a sense and we both love using mediums that are natural. It makes the most sense to us I think. My college career was in, I started out in pharmacy school. I always knew I wanted to help my community somehow and I’ve always been a helpful person, it’s kind of what brings joy and happiness to me. But I soon realized that the pharmacy route wasn’t for me and then went into fashion design, realized I loved design but that the fashion industry is not sustainable at the moment. I started diving deeper into what other interests I had and everybody needs food, it’s the foundation of life. That’s kind of what brought us to the mushroom because the mushroom is the foundation of life, it’s the beginning and it’s the end. It’s what keeps the circle going.

I just felt like I couldn’t go wrong with the mushroom. The earth needs it, we need it. It’s a stereotype that I want to help kind of break. There’s a symbiotic relationship between mushrooms and humans that I want to help bring about and make it mainstream because it’s beneficial for not only the earth, but it’s beneficial for us too.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me about Springvale, this is a part of Maine that not many people know about.

Emily Sharood:                    Roberts was living in Sanford at the time and Springvale is the town right over. And it’s got the Mousam River running through it. There’s this beautiful section of farms on Blanchard Road. And we knew starting out that we wanted to be around farms because we were going to be creating this substrate mushroom compost that needed to be moved to farms and we wanted to do it close by. Right off of this beautiful pond overlooking the valley, we found this picturesque dairy barn that had last been used as a dance hall and before that had been used as a dairy barn. And I’ve even run into a few people saying, “Oh, I used to milk the cows in there.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, now we’re harvesting mushrooms in there.”

It’s kind of nice to have that history behind it as well. And yeah, we’re also collaborating with the local farms around us. Our operations manager, Aaron Gonsalves has his own produce farm as well as a dairy farm, the whites dairy farm that he works with as well. And then we have Annette’s Gardens, they grow microgreens in greenhouses and then you have Rivard’s Blueberry Farm. It’s a beautiful area and location and the people and the food movement that’s going on in Springvale is so strong. We have a farm trail walk coming up in April. It’s really the community that brought us there, and we’re really excited to be a part of it.

Lisa Belisle:                          Johnny, what do you hope to do with your art moving forward?

Johnny D.:                              Well, I own my own business called Winter Hill Design. I do custom furniture and woodworking. I grew up woodworking with my dad so it’s always been a part of me. And like I said, when I went away to school for industrial design, I thought that was what I really wanted to do. But this woodworking and being in Maine has always been a part of me. I hope to just build my business organically, and I just can’t wait to have my own shop someday and just get to go out there and make whatever I want, hopefully things that people appreciate and want. I love creating things, I love working with wood, I love nature and mushrooms. And if we can incorporate mushrooms into furniture someday, that would be cool too.

Emily Sharood:                    That would be really neat collaboration, absolutely.

Johnny D.:                              I just picture us having a beautiful homestead with some land and just creating things all day, every day.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I look forward to digging into these Italian oyster mushrooms that you brought although it seems a little bit of a shame to ruin them because they’re so pretty. But I’ll look at them for a little while before I actually-

Emily Sharood:                    I know, they almost look like a bouquet of flowers really.

Lisa Belisle:                          They really do.

Emily Sharood:                    Johnny and I are getting married in September and I’m trying to figure out how I can incorporate the mushrooms in with the bouquets of flowers. We’ll make it work. Yellow Twist Floral Designs actually used our mushrooms for one of their weddings that they set up.

Lisa Belisle:                          Who knew these mushrooms had so many different sides to them. I’ve been speaking with Emily Sharood who is the sales and marketing director at Mousam Valley Mushrooms and also her fiancé Johnny Dickinson who is a woodworker and owner of Winter Hill Design. Thank you for coming in and talking with me today.

Johnny D.:                              Thank you so much for having us. It’s been a pleasure.

Emily Sharood:                    Thank you.

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Dr. Dan Landry trained and worked within the Harvard system in Boston as a pediatric anesthesiologist prior to joining Spectrum Health Care Partners in 1994. Over the next two decades, he managed the largest division within Spectrum and served as president and chairman of the board. This past January, he gave up his administrative positions within Spectrum to focus on his clinical practice and advocate for health care reform within Maine and throughout the United States. Thanks for coming in.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  My pleasure, thanks for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          And you and I happen to be neighbors.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  We are, yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          We could just see each other out, you’re walking your dog with your wife Deborah on a regular basis.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Yeah. In our little corner of heaven.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah, it’s a pretty amazing place Littlejohn Island. You grew up in Maine, you grew up in Sanford.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  I did, I grew up in Sanford, spent the first 18 years there. Went to high school in the public high school. After almost 20 years in Boston decided to come back.

Lisa Belisle:                          What caused you to leave Maine in the first place? I’m assuming it was educational.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  It was educational. I received a degree in mechanical engineering from University of Maine and then took a couple of years and was a ski bum in Vail. And then went to med school in Boston, and then trained in Boston. My wife was in school in Boston as well. But then after training and working for a few years, we came back.

Lisa Belisle:                          Did you meet Deborah also in Boston?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  No, we were acquaintances in college, only acquaintances. And then I met her on The T of all places while we were in Boston. I said, “I know you,” and history from there.

Lisa Belisle:                          Is she also from Maine?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  No. Well, she grew up in Pennsylvania but spent the last couple years of high school in New York and then went to University of Maine as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          For you, there’s something very personal about health care reform within our state.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Yes. Having participated in health care for more than 30 years, are you referring to my injury or?

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, no, I was referring to just being from Maine. But now that you’ve done injury, I’m going to have to ask you about that.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  This is a word of caution for everybody that owns a ladder. Two and a half years ago, I fell off a ladder and broke both my legs and was a participant on the other side of health care, saw how it worked. I was lucky that I received excellent health care. But my injury, this didn’t propel me to go into health care economics but illustrates the problem. I was injured in the beginning of December, my health plan probably like everybody listening has a large deductible and I incurred roughly $15,000 of out-of-pocket expenses because it was on the end of one year and into the next. I am extraordinarily fortunate that I could pay for that, very few people in this country can pay for that. Less than half of the people in the US have $8,000 or more in the bank at any one time. Health care is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. And of those 62% file for bankruptcy based on health care, 75% percent of those have health insurance.

I’m passionate about health policy because I believe that if we don’t reform the health care system in this country, it threatens everything we know. It threatens our infrastructure, our educational system, our social programs. And no matter which side of the aisle you find yourself on, it will threaten programs dear to you. We have to fix this health care issue.

Lisa Belisle:                          Are there a lot of people in your field, which is very sub specialized, pediatrics anesthesiology, are there are a lot of people in your field who are interested in health policy?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  I don’t believe there are many physicians that are interested in health policy per se on a regional, state or national level. That said, I think physicians are interested in health policy in the manner in which it affects their patients. A physician such as yourself who works on the front lines of medicine and deals with patients on an everyday basis, every patient that is undergoing treatment it has been shown that the finances of that care is forefront in their mind, much more so than whether or not they’re getting better. There was a study done on breast cancer, women with breast cancer whether it’s treatment, toxicity, treatment efficacy or treatment cost, the majority of women chose treatment cost as a determining factor of the type of treatment they would receive, which I think as a physician that’s not acceptable. That’s just not acceptable.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah, it’s actually rather scary because if you have somebody who’s deciding that she can’t actually go toward the type of treatment that she really needs, then it might not even be a cost effective way of dealing with it even in the short term.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Exactly, exactly, exactly. It’s a pervasive problem.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you were growing up, did you know that you wanted to be a doctor?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Well, interestingly enough, I have a big brother, David who’s seven years older than I am. I’m sorry David. He and his wife who is also a physician, she’s an internist. David went into medicine and I’ve kind of modeled myself after my older brother. I grew up without a father so David was a father figure. I modeled myself after him. He went into medical school, went in to be a physician and I followed in his tracks. And I was thinking of becoming a orthopedic surgeon because of my background in engineering. And both he and his wife said, “No, go into anesthesia.”

Lisa Belisle:                          Why anesthesia? What was his background?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  He was a biologist in college. They just said it was interesting, allowed flexibility, which it does. More flexibility than other specialties. And it was interesting, I’m glad I did it. They were right.

Lisa Belisle:                          What you’re talking about is something that has become an important consideration in medical school generally, which is lifestyle. And many of the people who are going through, being a doctor is hard enough. But as you’re going through if you’ve incurred a lot of debt and you also would like to have a family at some point, you do have to start looking around to decide, “Can I really even afford personally and financially to be a primary care doctor?”

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Right. It’s very difficult for folks. And I think the younger folks that are coming out of medical school have a better balance than I did. I’m not going to speak for you, but I remember I was just at the end of the year when the term resident physician versus visit was coming out of vogue meaning, a resident physician being one in training lived at the hospital. And the visit, which is the staff person came and went. And that was the norm, and that’s just not healthy.

Lisa Belisle:                          And I was a resident right before they changed the resident work hour rules, which meant that we were still even though we weren’t technically residents of the hospital, we were there a lot more than the current residents are.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  120-hour a week was not uncommon, do you remember that?

Lisa Belisle:                          I do, I lived it.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  And now I think rightfully so folks coming out are saying, “I’m not going to do that.” And I think it’s better for them. But that raises the cost of care because it requires more physicians to deliver the same care. It’s a conundrum.

Lisa Belisle:                          When I was talking to a woman who finished residency just a little bit ahead of me as a surgeon and I had trained in family medicine, she mentioned that one of the problems with the resident work hour rules was that somebody still needs to be taking care of the patients. The work gets shifted back on to typically younger doctors but also sometimes older doctors who have already done their own version of 100-hour work weeks. The issue seems to be that we can move things around so that somebody else ends up dealing with whatever needs to get dealt with but, it’s still there.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  It’s still there

Lisa Belisle:                          There are still patients, they still need care. It’s still going to be expensive.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  The solution is, primarily hospitals which are now the largest employers of physicians, the solution is to hire more either physicians themselves or advanced practitioners. But the money is not there although physician cost of health care is only 11% of total expenditure. It’s not an overwhelming cost, but still hospitals operate on a very, very narrow profit margin. Most hospitals in Maine are losing money. The expenditure for additional physicians is just not going to happen.

Lisa Belisle:                          We’ve talked about some of the issues, what are some of the other issues that you’ve learned about during the time that you spent in administration and also in the study that you’re doing at the London School of Economics where you’re getting a degree in health policy and economics?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  It’s a broad question, what have I learned? I’ve learned that I firmly believe, I strongly believe that physicians should be in leadership positions in hospitals and health care. There is a growing trend that that is occurring, but physicians understand what it means to take care of patients and what is necessary, like this conversation you and I just had about the need for more physicians. We inherently understand that and administrators look at it more as dollars and cents. I think non-physician administrators certainly have their heart in the right place and are doing the right thing. This is not to malign them, I just think that physicians have a deeper understanding of what it means to take care of patients. They should be in charge.

And in Maine, there’s only one CEO of a hospital who’s a physician. And that’s Mark Fourre up at Waldo Pen Bay. And that’s a trend, that’s a movement in the right direction. Let’s see what else, you’d asked me what I’d learned. I think physicians should be more involved in leadership, but it’s hard for physicians because we don’t have the training. It’s taken me 15 years of on-the-job education of myself, primarily self education to learn about health policy and finance. It is very, very complicated who gets paid for what and why they get paid. My studies at London School of Economics have given me an insight into how other countries are tackling these problems. Most other countries around the world are coalescing around a capitated payment model, meaning I get paid X number of dollars to take care of you and that’s all the money there is. And the US has not moved in that direction.

Every country in the world is dealing with high pharmacy prices and high increasing health care costs, but some countries are doing it much better than us. These studies have given me a more global view, which has been helpful.

Lisa Belisle:                          How do we encourage more physicians to take positions of leadership within the health care system?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  That’s very difficult. I’ve been wrestling with that for a long time. Well, first of all, most of the times when physicians work in leadership positions as you’re moving up and gaining experience, they’re almost always unpaid positions. They’re just tacked on to the end of the day. An emotionally drained physician who then has to sit through three hours of meetings every is very difficult. Companies need to invest in young leadership, there’s no question about that. It’s really an investment that needs to be made. And we need to find leaders and invest in them but also train them as well. Send them to school, send them to programs to learn how to manage. And unfortunately, in my experience, I don’t have experience managing other folks other than physicians, but physicians are a very difficult group to manage, very, very difficult.

And people that have managed other sorts have told me that they’re one of the more difficult, although as I said, I don’t have experience with anybody else. But I will say they are very difficult. The job of the old management style, a physician expected of their manager don’t allow change to occur. And that’s still the mantra to some degree. And in this day and age, that’s impossible, Change not only is occurring, it has to occur. Physicians have got to be on board with what’s coming, and that’s hard.

Lisa Belisle:                          I can’t really deny anything that you’ve just said. I think I’ve seen this personally as a physician chaffing a little bit under management, although I have a lot of respect for the people that are managing my practice and ultimately, me. I think there’s a different mindset that we have as a result of our training perhaps and there’s a different level of responsibility that’s expected of us. It’s a strange dynamic to be able to go back and on the one hand be responsible in your case for putting children under anesthesia and keeping them alive long enough to get their surgeries and then bringing them back out again and making sure that they’re in good shape. And in my case, trying to work with women who have new breast cancer diagnosis or manage people’s heart disease. And these are people’s lives that you have responsibility for, you’re tasked with being a leader and a protector. And it’s hard to then have somebody come in and say, “Well, we need you to do this, this and this.”

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Exactly, it is very hard. And I think you and I are of a generation, I think it’s going to have to be a generational change because our training was the captain of the ship model. You are the captain of the ship, you are in charge that a woman that comes to you with heart disease, it is up to you to keep her healthy. And the shift now is in team-based approach. And you and I, we weren’t trained that way. We’re trained to be autonomous. It’s very difficult for doctors trained in our generation to make this shift to a team-based. I don’t mean to say that people aren’t good team players, but team-based approaches you got to follow a protocol. This is a path where you got to follow it even though you may not agree with it. And physicians are very bad at that, they don’t want to be told how to practice.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’m smiling because I think that’s true although personally I like being part of a team and many of the physicians I work with enjoy being part of a team. I think what I struggle with is at the end of the day, it’s my medical license that ends up being at risk. The malpractice suits are largely filed against physicians. Even though we are part of a team, if something goes wrong on the team, we still are taking responsibility for that. Do you see that shifting so that it enables us to feel more comfortable with the team-based approach?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  No. It gets into the realm of legislation, that’s a legislative effect. I believe where health care is going is into a much more, we call it a cookbook approach, it’s much more predicated on best evidence. You see the Watson project for the IBM that Watson is now reading x-ray studies, pathology studies, recommending cancer treatments. And I think the cancer treatment is a good example of no matter how good a physician or a team of physicians is, they cannot keep up with the literature that occurs in cancer medicine, it’s just physically impossible. You need decision support. And physicians are less and less developing, making, and implementing the final decision as opposed to using a lot of these decision support tools. And I think that’s what I mean with myself, for instance, uncomfortable with not having it in my head but relying on other things to tell me what the best thing to do is.

I’m just not comfortable with that. And I think we have to be and I think the younger generation is a little more comfortable than I am in that regard.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yes. What about the recent news of the heads of these organizations coming together and deciding outside of medicine that they want to do something about medicine?

Dr. Dan Landry:                  I can’t tell you how glad you are you asked me that. Oh, [inaudible 00:50:15] get to that. We’ve relied on the government to help with health care. President Obama did the ACA, which no matter how you feel about the politics was a movement in the right direction in that he was putting a focus on health care. There is a problem, let’s try and fix it. As what happens in politics, it became partisan and some people thought it was the worst thing and some people thought it was the best, but it started the conversation. But what did not occur in the ACA and certainly is not occurring in the debate today is the cost of health care. What they’re talking about is who’s actually going to pay for health care, they’re not talking about the fundamental problem, which is the cost, which we pay almost 18% of our GDP to health care whereas the next most expensive health care in the country is 10 or 11%, international averages around 9.

For every individual in the US, we’re spending $10,000 a year on health care. These companies, you’re referring to Amazon, J.P.. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway have come together to develop innovative ways for the delivery of health care. Why are they doing that? It gets right back to why health insurance was developed in the first place, which was to keep the workforce healthy and insure a workforce for companies and country. That is why health care and insurance came about. These folks that employ millions of people can no longer afford health care for their employees, it’s just too expensive. It’s become the single largest expenditure for their companies, they are coming up with new solutions. And I believe that health care reform will not occur through the government or through legislation, it’s going to occur through avenues such as that.

Insurance companies really don’t have an impetus to change health care, they’re simply a conduit for the money. In Maine here, we have a large number of self-insured companies. Self-insured meaning like BIW, they don’t have insurance per se, they pay for it out of their pocket. And that’s starting to trickle down to medium and small-sized companies that are taking on this risk so that they can control their costs even more. It’s going to be innovations like self insurance, these big companies that innovate that is going to be where the reform is going to come from. I am convinced of that. And what’s it going to look like? I don’t know although there is technology out there. You can get an EKG done from your smartphone at home with a cardiologist reading in 30 minutes. You can do most things online.

There is an enormous amount that can be done. And hospitals and health systems are reliant upon the money coming in to them because they have such high fixed overhead that this disruptive innovation will have profound consequences for the hospital systems and the hospitals particularly in a rural state like Maine. We no longer can support 39 hospitals. Health care reform is going to come from people like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett and those folks. They have the money to invest in it. That’s where it’s coming from.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, you raise an interesting point because I enjoy taking care of the patients from Bath Iron Works, for example, because they will come in, and I think also L.L.Bean. There’s a few other major employers within the state. And the patients will come in and they will have been seen by their health coach, they’ll have their numbers in front of them. I have a set of labs that have been done by these patients. I’m already starting with more information than I would otherwise. And that’s really useful to me as a primary care doctor. However, the point that you’re raising about it no longer being money that goes into the medical system is a good one. If I am not ordering the labs and they’re not being drawn by my hospital and not being run by my hospital, there’s already a loss of profit. It’ll be interesting to see how this all works out because you can’t really pull a string in one part of the world they say and not feel a tug at the other.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  And these companies before they relied on the insurer and they thought the insurer was looking out for the best interest of finding the lowest cost. They were or they weren’t, it’s immaterial at this point. But now, their labs are a great example. They can send lab specimens essentially all over the country so you find the lowest cost. And now consumers are starting to do that as well because as I mentioned earlier when I got hurt, we are spending an enormous amount of out-of-pocket expenses. People are starting to look for lower cost, lower cost lab work, lower cost radiology services. And you go to the doctor and the doctor may prescribe three tests and four medicines and people are saying why. There’s much more consumerism in medicine. It tends to be more outside of Maine because there’s more choices outside of Maine than there is in Maine, but it’s coming.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I will be interested to see as my son finishes medical school in a few years, to see where things go with him.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Good for him.

Lisa Belisle:                          I know my dad, he’s 70 something years old, he’s still practicing medicine. The landscape of medicine has just completely changed since he was starting. I know that you have two kids Sam and Chris who are 23 and 20, to know what the things are going to look like for our kids will be fascinating I believe.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  It will be. I wish the best for your son practicing medicine, we absolutely need more physicians. I’m more concerned about our kids in their ability to pay for health care. If we continue on this trajectory, they won’t be able to afford health care, they just won’t. And if they can’t afford health care, it’s going to be to the detriment of every other program. That’s my biggest concern. And if we don’t change the trajectory, our kids and their families are going to really struggle with health in the future, their own health.

Lisa Belisle:                          Doing the work that you’re doing in health care reform, I wish you all the best with this. I’ve been speaking with Dr. Dan Landry who is a pediatric anesthesiologist who is now working on his clinical practice and being an advocate for health care reform within Maine and throughout the United States. Thank you so much for coming in today.

Dr. Dan Landry:                  Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1:                     where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life through free advice, workshops and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine, go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting works of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio show number 348. Our guests have included Emily Sharood and Johnny Dickinson, and Dr. Dan Landry. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on twitter, it’s Dr. Lisa. And see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We’re happy that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #347: Emily Wedick and Louise and Kim Swan

Speaker 1:                                      You are listening to Love Maine Radio hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, Show Number 347, airing for the first time on May 13, 2018. Today we speak with Emily Wedick and her friend, Louise, two advertising account managers at the Maine Media Collective who each have young children who are transgender. We also speak with Kim Swan, the owner of The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty and a film producer. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                    , where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life through free advice, workshops, and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly-expanded space, including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Lisa Belisle:                          Emily Wedick and her friend Louise are advertising account managers at Maine Media Collective. They are both supporting their children through transitioning, and both have been involved in creating resources for parents and transgender children going through the process of transitioning. Thanks for coming in today.

Louise:                                     Thank you for having us.

Emily Wedick:                      Thank you.

Lisa Belisle:                          This is a very interesting time for both of you because each of you has other children at the same time. You’ve been parenting for how many years now, Louise?

Louise:                                     I have identical twins that are five and a half, so yeah, it’s been very interesting, especially with them being identical twins and one being transgender at such a young age and the other one cisgender. That’s another piece of terminology that I didn’t know about but learned about, and that’s just the opposite of trans. You’re cis. I’m cisgender and … yeah, so [crosstalk 00:02:42]-

Lisa Belisle:                          It means that you identify with the body that you were born into.

Louise:                                     Exactly, exactly, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          That would be cis, and trans would be that the body that you were born into doesn’t-

Louise:                                     Doesn’t match.

Lisa Belisle:                          … feel like it fits your identity.

Louise:                                     Right.

Lisa Belisle:                          Okay.

Louise:                                     Right, exactly. Yeah. We noticed that early on. I don’t know. Do you want me to … Would you like to tell about how old your kids are and stuff?

Emily Wedick:                      Yeah.

Louise:                                     Then we can get into our stories.

Emily Wedick:                      Sure. My oldest child is six, and I have a four-year-old as well. My six-year-old is my child who is transgender. When she was born, we identified her as male, but she let us know quite quickly, from the age of two started giving us signals that it took quite a while to pick up on that she did not identify as male, so interestingly, also going through this process as a first-time parent, because she was my first-born child, and then I have a four-year old daughter as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          How does one pick up on a two-year-old feeling not right with their body?

Emily Wedick:                      Well, it’s interesting. The research has shown or experts in child development say that it is around the age of two or three that we start to develop a sense of gender identity when a child can articulate whether they’re a girl or a boy and sort of have a sense of what that means in a social context. If someone asks you, “Are you a girl?” for example, as a cisgender person who identifies with the body they were born into and the gender that they were labeled as a child, we don’t question why, “Why are you a girl? Why do you feel like a girl?” “Well, I just am.” With a transgender child, it’s a very similar experience. My child had what we would typically think of as a boy’s body. We gave her a traditionally male name. She was dressed in clothing that we would associate with … that I bought from the boys’ section at children’s clothing stores.

Very quickly she started to show, through certain ways of expression … Often, one of the first things that children will do is start to reject the clothing that’s associated with that gender. My child started asking for dresses. Because I had had my daughter, my second child, around that time as well, hand-me-downs were starting to flood the house from friends with dresses for my new baby girl to grow into. My two-year-old, at the time, would say, “Well, is this for me?” We’d say, “No. This is for your sister,” and my two-year-old would say, “No, for me,” and become very insistent and seemed very disappointed, so at some point after persistent asking about dresses, her father and I decided, “Well, why not let this child wear a dress?”

In my mind, it seemed more like a creative expression, maybe kind of like playing dress-up. She would have on her dinosaur t-shirt and cargo pants, and I would put the dress over it and send my child on their way. All of these signs sort of add up over time. When I look back at photographs now of the time period between about two and a half and three, I notice that, almost every photograph, my child, who at the time we knew as a boy, is in a dress. It’s those sorts of signs, and then we can talk about what that looks like as the child gets older and how they start to become persistent and send messages in other ways.

Lisa Belisle:                          Louise, what did you notice about your son Joe?

Louise:                                     Well, yeah, it’s interesting. It was right around the same kind of timing. Looking back, we could notice signs at two years old. Both of my children, identical, were born as female, but Joe identifies as male. Looking back, we could see kind of his stance and, I don’t know, just little things that you could see, but then, at three years old, it started with the clothes. I used to dress them, of course, exactly alike, and it was tutus and everything. I had identical girls, and I wanted them to be exactly alike, and I just thought it was the cutest little thing, but Joe was having no part of that, though.

Every time we’d go to the store, he wanted to go into the boys’ section. I would look for gender-neutral clothes and take something from the girls’ section and put it in the boys’ section and just say, “Hey, Joe, what do you think about this?” Yeah, well, as long as it came out of the boys’ section, then that was okay, and so we did that, but these were just little signs, and I thought, well, with identical twins … Of course, this is my first time being a mom. I was thinking, oh, maybe they’re just trying to find their own way, and maybe one’s a little tomboyish. Who knows? He can dress his own way and then … so it wasn’t very long that they could dress alike. The things that he did like were the ultimate boy stuff. It was the camo pants, and it was the Ninja Turtles shirt, and it was … those were the things, and didn’t even want pink things to touch him or anything like that, anything that kind of resembled a girl.

Yeah, so there was one instance with my husband where he was laying on the grass and had our two girls, at the time, laying there, and they were looking up at the sky. There was somebody building a house next door, and they were asking, “Dad, how did they build that house?” My husband said, “Well, there’s builders that do that, and they cut down the trees, and this is how they build a house.” Joe, at the time Anna, was looking at the sky. They were both looking at the sky and said, “Well, Dad, who makes the clouds in the sky?” We’re not a hugely religious family, but we do believe in a higher power. He said, “Well, that would be God.” This was at three. Joe said, at the time Anna, “So God put me in the wrong body?” My husband was just taking it in and said, “Um, you know …” Didn’t really know how to answer that.

Those were the kind of things that we just took in, those sorts of things. As it got further along, Joe would say things like, “I’m a boy, and the only one who believes me is my twin sister,” and so we’d ask Carla, “Carla, what do you think?” Carla would be like, “Mom, yes, Joe’s a boy.” Those are some major points.

Emily Wedick:                      I’m glad that Louise is speaking to some of those kind of anecdotes as well because I think, obviously, one of the first ways that kids will start to express their identity is through their clothing and what they wear, but it does extend beyond that. I want to be careful too because it’s very typical for preschoolers, children between the ages of two and five, to play dress-up and experiment, so-

Louise:                                     True.

Emily Wedick:                      Parent’s shouldn’t be concerned if a male child wants to put on an Elsa dress and be a princess. That’s very typical, but where you start to kind of understand that maybe something deeper is happening is where you see that consistency. What we’ve learned along the way from child development experts and doctors and psychologists is that the hallmark of a child being transgender is that they are consistent, persistent, and insistent, and so all of the stories that we are sharing are sort of mile markers or things that happened along the way on a longer journey with our children sort of doing everything in their power to consistently, insistently, and persistently kind of wave their arms and say, “Mom, look, this is-”

Louise:                                     “This is me.”

Emily Wedick:                      “This is who I am.” It extends a lot further than the clothing that they wear.

Louise:                                     Yeah, yeah. With Joe, it was very … wanted to have a boy’s cut, a boy’s haircut, a boy’s haircut and had the same haircut as his sister, let it grow out long, whatever, and so getting that first haircut … I mean we already let him dress the way he had wanted to, but seeing him cut just like … and he wanted it very short, just like a boy, because he really wants you … but to see it unfold and see himself in the mirror, he could see his external match who he felt internally, and that was just amazing as a mom to see that, to know that your child is so happy with who they see in the mirror. That was another moment, I think.

Lisa Belisle:                          Did either one of you experience anxiety coming from your children, or were there behavior changes? Did they feel depressed? I mean some people believe that maybe kids are too little to actually feel anxious or depressed, but I’m not sure that’s true, and I’m wondering how this impacted your families.

Louise:                                     Yeah. Did you experience much of that?

Emily Wedick:                      I did. It’s tough with children because they have such big emotions and don’t always-

Louise:                                     Right, to try to decipher-

Emily Wedick:                      … know how to express themselves, so sometimes it’s very hard to tease out what’s sort of developmentally typical and what is kind of more on the extreme end of things, and then of course-

Louise:                                     What’s a tantrum and what is-

Emily Wedick:                      What is something-

Louise:                                     … trans-related or getting out anxiety or what is just a normal kid’s tantrum?

Emily Wedick:                      I would say the way that I, and with my child, saw things progressing was a lot of anxiety around going to school whereas, at earlier ages, this was a child who loved daycare, who thrived, who loved preschool, who was excited about going to school every day, who easily made friends, who was very outgoing and confident, who began to suddenly get very upset before going to school, become very clingy, develop separation anxiety that had not previously been there, and then slowly started to be able to articulate in words, “I can’t wear a dress to school because the boys will laugh at me. The other boys will laugh at me.” It’s incredible. I would say this is around the age of four or four and a half, around that time, when I think kids start to understand and have a social awareness of what certain norms are with their peers.

Of course, we’re learning now that gender can be a very creative spectrum in that there are children who are male who will always identify as male who are not trans who may enjoy nail polish or things we typically associate with feminine, but at that age it’s very black and white. Children often organize themselves, boys’ team, girls’ team, and suddenly, my child didn’t know where they fit and started to become self-conscious and develop almost a sense of shame is how I perceived it, and so, suddenly, we were battling to go to school every day. Finally, my child looked at me and just said, “When it’s summer and the school year ends, I’m going to grow my hair long. I’m going to wear it in braids. I’m going to wear dresses every day, and I’m going to be a girl, and that’s who I am.”

It kind of became, at that point … It was the freight train that was running and either her father and I were going to get on it and be supportive and start to understand what she was going through and experiencing and how we could be the best parents that we could be, or it was going to run away without us. I think that, as you talk to parents who have kids who come out at a very young age, there are a lot of these sort of seminal moments that we all experience where we realize this is happening.

Louise:                                     It happens all of a sudden, yeah, like a freight train. It’s like it-

Emily Wedick:                      Whether I like it or not.

Louise:                                     You see these little pieces that are determining things, but then, all of a sudden, they’re ready, and they’re telling you. Joe felt a lot of anxiety and stress after he got his hair cut because we hadn’t come out to the class yet. It was the weekend. It was Sunday night, and he was going to be going into school the next day. The night before that, Sunday night, he was worried, “What if the kids still don’t believe I’m a boy?” even with his haircut. He started saying that his throat was hurting him and burning. I didn’t know if it was something physical. I took him to the emergency room. Come to find out, it was all just very nervous energy about all that.

That was one of the times, and then another time was when the teacher started to notice where … and the kids too, which line was he going to get into for the bathroom? Was it going to be the boys’ line or the girls’ line? They started to name off all the boys, and then they put Joe, and then they’d start off the girls. He came home that day, and he was so excited that he was at the end of the boys’ line. That was when we were just like, “Okay, this is it. We need to talk to the teachers. We need to start making this change,” and he was so happy about it.

Lisa Belisle:                          You both met through a play group that you, Emily, had put together for parents and children who were transitioning this way. From what I understand, this was very helpful.

Emily Wedick:                      I had, through sort of chance, met another mother in southern Maine who had a then also four-and-a-half, five-year-old child who had come out as a transgender girl, meaning they thought she was a boy when she was born. She came out as a girl. We got together and had a play date together and sort of started kind of brainstorming and talking about how there are quite a few number of resources that we can also share with this audience for transgender adults and for transgender youth, but those tend to be geared a lot more toward older youth teens, and we found that there wasn’t a lot to support families with younger children.

What we wanted to do was not really have sort of a formalized support group or something really clinical. We just wanted a safe space for families to get together, for parents to be able to kind of share experiences, and for the kids to just play, and have a very normalized experience, and understand that there are other children like them, because it’s so important. We know that it’s important for children to have dolls that represent their skin color, or their hair type, or whatever it is. Children love to see themselves and know that they’re okay and know that … to feel special, and to feel okay, and to not feel other than or feel so different, and so we thought this would be a good opportunity for kids to just kind of know that there are many children like them.

To put that in context, there is a private Facebook group for parents of transgender children that is actually an international group. I think, at this point, it has over 5,000 members.

Louise:                                     It’s huge, and it’s-

Emily Wedick:                      If you think about it, that includes parents who are actively seeking out resources to support their children. It’s most likely a fraction of the number of children who are transgender. There are a lot of us, and so our group has sort of organically been growing. I would say there are probably about 15 families now-

Louise:                                     Yeah.

Emily Wedick:                      … who have joined us in the southern Maine area. One of the things that we did was we provided information about our group at … there is, through Maine Medical Center, a pediatric gender clinic, and that’ll … provides some context as well and indication of, I guess, the need for these services, so that’s where we’ve shared some information as well as through my pediatrician’s office. We can certainly provide resources and to connect to other families who might be interested as well.

Louise:                                     Yes, we’re happy to do that. The trans youth group that I go to that Emily started is just amazing. It’s been such a great resource for us, the bonds that we’ve made with the parents. The kids all running around, whether it be the siblings or the gender-nonconforming kids, you don’t even know who’s who, and nobody cares, and they’re just running around in packs, and us, as parents, being able to talk about things that are unfolding with our young children and if we’ve had any experiences. Most of them are very similar experiences.

It is great for us to have that community of people so our kids don’t feel different. They feel like they belong, and they’re having a strong sense early on of being themselves, and I think that that’s what’s important because for transgender people who are not supported, the … I hate bringing up this because it really … it hurts me as a parent that there’s … it’s a 41% suicide rate, and that’s for people who are not supported. When they are supported, that drops down tremendously. I know that, with the group that we’re together with, our kids are going to thrive. They’re going to survive. They’re going to do great things, and so, yeah, I want to thank Emily and her friend for starting that.

It just keeps growing, and we would love for it to grow and to continue to grow, and so, yeah, if you would like to hear more about the group or talk to Emily or myself, we do have an email address that you could email us at. It’s transkids Maine, ME, so I’ll spell it out, Just write to us, and we’d love to talk to you.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I really appreciate your taking the time to come in and talk today because I think this is something that many people are working through right now and don’t necessarily know what the resources are, and this is a good way for them to connect with people who have been through similar experiences.

I’ve been speaking with Emily Wedick and her friend Louise who are advertising account managers at Maine Media Collective. They are both supporting their children through transitioning, and both have been involved in creating resources for parents and transgender children going through the process of transitioning. Thank you so much for what you are doing and for coming in and being willing to share your stories.

Emily Wedick:                      Thank you so much for having us.

Louise:                                     Yes, thank you so much.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port where everybody is seen as a work of art, and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Lisa Belisle:                          Dr. Zach Mazone, DO, created DaySpring Integrative Wellness in Bath, Maine with the belief that true health comes from building healthy relationships with your community, with your doctor, and with yourself. As a board-certified family and integrative medicine physician, Dr. Mazone and the whole staff at DaySpring are committed to supporting your wellness journey by providing integrative family medical care, osteopathic manipulation, herbal and lifestyle consultations, counseling and wave therapy. DaySpring offers an innovative membership-based model of healthcare that give you time together with Dr. Mazone to build a personalized wellness plan based on your health goals. Daily access for acute appointments is available, and you can even schedule a secure video conference call in the privacy of your own home. I know Dr. Zach and his family, and I believe strongly in the personalized whole-person approach to health that he provides. This is why I am encouraging you to find out more for yourself by visiting or by calling them directly at 207-751-4775. DaySpring, wellness the way it should be.

Kim Swan is the owner of the Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty and is on the board of the Bar Harbor Historical Society and a longstanding friend of the magazine, so thanks so much.

Kim Swan:                              You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve really been interested in all the different types of work you’ve been doing up in the Bar Harbor area, because you could just focus on your business selling houses, but you also … You have a finger in the inns industry. You’re doing work with film. I mean it’s like I can’t turn around and not have your name be there up in Bar Harbor. Why all of this different stuff? What keeps you so interested in so many different things?

Kim Swan:                              I think it’s a combination of being a Gemini and wanting to do a lot of things at once, but I was thinking about it a few weeks ago, and I actually said to somebody, “Differently than most people in the real estate business … For most, it’s a second career or something they’ve done and then moved into full time. I didn’t have a choice.” Real estate was the family business, so when I was leaving for my freshman year in college, my father said, “Hey, take some real estate classes, and you won’t have to waitress during summers,” so I ended up selling houses during summers, and then it just became … I was going to go back and go to law school, but it was lucrative, and a lot of the local attorneys would say, “Kim, you’re making more money than we are,” because it was a good time.

I didn’t choose real estate, it chose me, so I think when I got to the point where I could start making choices, I was able to start doing some things that I was passionate about, like the film making is probably the newest thing, but the inns, and design, and just finding … It’s easy up there to find ways to marry them all into each other.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, let’s talk about the film. You just told me that you’re now working on a second film, but you’re referring to this first film, which is called The Fire of ’47.

Kim Swan:                              Yes, so The Fire of ’47, which was really a statewide thing, happened … It decimated Bar Harbor, and it changed Bar Harbor. Up until that time, Bar Harbor was very much a wealthy community. Most of the people had jobs working for the cottagers, as they were known. It had started through the Depression and everything. It had started to not be as attractive, but people still had their big houses and everything. A lot of very notable families were there, and so when the fire came through, it ruined so many, I mean over 67 of the huge mansions, over 100 of the year-round people’s houses, so it changed Bar Harbor. That’s when we went, as somebody said, from being a summer community to being a tourist community. That’s when the hotels started being built. That’s when the motels started being built.

It was fascinating, and this was the 70th anniversary. In order to get people who had been through it 70 years ago, we need to start getting those people to record their experiences, so we sent out a casting call and said, “If you knew this, come down and talk to us.” The director, Peter Logue, who had approached the Bar Harbor Historical Society to make this film, and as a board member I said, “I’ll produce,” and then when the Historical Society would save the money on the producer, he just started interviewing people and put together this amazing film.

Lisa Belisle:                          Did you know all of the people that were involved in the storytelling aspect of this?

Kim Swan:                              Yes, they were all local, so most of them would have been in their teens, but never really knew their stories. You know how you always hear, “Oh, he doesn’t talk about the war. He doesn’t talk about …?” Some of these people had never talked about the fire, so some of their kids and grandkids had never heard these stories. It was amazing. I mean we just opened the doors to the Historical Society, and these people just started coming in, and the stories they were telling, when I saw the first trailer, I was … and I’m not exaggerating. I was in tears because this one guy talks about how … He says something along the lines of, “After the fire, they let us back in.” He said, “And we went back to the house,” and he said, “and it was gone,” and he said, “and I think I knew it was going to be gone, but I didn’t really realize everything was going to be gone.” There were some very sad stories and some very happy stories, but so compelling.

Then everybody came on board. Steve Zirnkilton, who is the voice of Law & Order, he’s a Seal Harbor guy, and we asked him … I mean we hadn’t even finished the sentence and said, “Hey, Steve, would you narrate this film?” It was yes, totally as a donation, and so we had some fun with it. The people loved being part of it with Steve and everything. At the beginning of the film, it’s just a black screen. We had five major sponsors that gave us $5,000 each, and then Maine Magazine, thank you, came on as our media sponsor, and so, at the beginning, there’s just a black screen with the logos and that booming Steve Zirnkilton Law & Order saying, “Without the support of these people, this wouldn’t have happened,” kind of like a Downton Abbey beginning, and then at the end, “And Maine, The Magazine.”

Everybody was just like, “Wow, this is the real deal. You got the Law & Order guy on it.” We didn’t have to ask twice. We said, “Can you help do this?” “Yes.” “Can you help do this?” When we called down here to Maine Mag, “This, I think, would be a really cool things for you guys to be involved in, and would you be the media …” I didn’t even finish the sentence, and it was, “Yes, we’re in,” so it’s been a great thing for the whole state.

Lisa Belisle:                          Your family is a longstanding Bar Harbor family. How were you impacted by the fire?

Kim Swan:                              We actually didn’t move to Bar Harbor til I was four, and so I’m not allowed to say I’m from Bar Harbor, because my ex-husband was born in Bar Harbor, and he always would remind me. Somebody would say, “Are you from Bar Harbor?” Sometimes it’s easy to say yes, but if he’s anywhere near me, I have to say, “No, I was four.” We don’t have any memories. That was in the late ’60, end of ’60s, so we had just always heard about it. There’s still ruins. As kids, you would go and explore the ruins and everything of these old cottages. I’ve had listings in real estate. I have one right now that they never took down the gates and everything that didn’t burn, so it’s just … It’s in the fabric of your life if you grew up in Bar Harbor because it’s all around.

Lisa Belisle:                          Did it mean something to you that there were fires happening in other parts of the country, and really have been for quite some time, as you were working on this movie?

Kim Swan:                              That’s so interesting that you mention that because that was the time that the California fire and everything … It was happening, and I would watch these things and think, “Oh, my gosh. That looks so horrible,” where sometimes, with the ’47 fire, it’s almost like it was a movie or it was an event. It wasn’t real. Then the combination of reading the news and then also working on editing these interviews where people have these memories that were so clear, yeah, it was extra impactful, I think. I remember talking to a few people about that and saying, “Wow,” or, “70 years from now, is there going to be somebody looking back on these fires?” It gives you pause.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s also a good reminder that, I mean, obviously, fire is something that’s so big that you can have all the most modern accessibility to things like water and firefighting equipment, and it could still really devastate just miles and miles and acres and acres of land and property and people’s lives.

Kim Swan:                              Yeah, yeah. Of course, back then, they didn’t have as much, but it’s interesting because the story that Steve Zirnkilton narrated, the story that the director chose to use was the written memories of the fire chief. I had always heard growing up that he always had a lot of guilt, and so it was … that’s the voice we heard telling this story and how … I mean they had put the fire out once and had no idea it was underground, which maybe today they would have known with all those little heat sensor things and everything. When it started up again, they didn’t know what was coming.

Then it goes back to how it started, and there’s so many … I call them urban myths even though Bar Harbor isn’t very urban, but how did it start? We never answered that question because there’s too many … I mean there are people that think it was arson. There are people that think it was a cigarette from some cranberry bog workers. There are people who think it was … it started near an old dump, that thought the sun came in just right on broken glass and started it. To hear it through his eyes and then the destruction, I mean, just horrible destruction, and then how it affected everything going forward.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me how Bar Harbor did rebuild from losing so much.

Kim Swan:                              It was most of the wealthy people left. Now, when you look at Mount Desert Island, the major cottages are in Northeast Harbor now. They’re not in Bar Harbor anymore. Bar Harbor is really the tourist center for Acadia and everything, but I think, going forward … One really interesting thing, I just sold a property a few weeks ago called Reef Point, and it’s right on the shore at Bath and Bar Harbor, so there’s not a lot of houses. They are very, very special properties, but Reef Point, at the time of the fire, and the fire didn’t take those houses, was owned by Beatrix Farrand who was a very, very famous landscape architect, we would call her now, but she insisted on being called a landscape gardener, had a beautiful house right on the shore at Bath, and she wanted to donate it to the town of Bar Harbor to be a horticultural center, and town of Bar Harbor couldn’t accept it. The town of Bar Harbor was broke. We had this horrible fire. So much of the tax base was gone, and so it was just a horrible situation because this mansion was breathtakingly beautiful.

Everybody’s making documentaries about her now. They’re starting to understand how important she was. When the town wouldn’t accept her house because they couldn’t because of the fire, she got upset, and she had it bulldozed and knocked it down. She had so many gardens, azalea gardens and all these other perennials that she had nurtured through the years of going all over the world doing most of the Rockefeller work and everything that, at the last second before this razing was done, Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Savage, and the architect, his name’s going away from me, but they all said, “Can we at least come and take all these plants?” So azalea gardens and everything that were on this estate became the Azalea Gardens and part of Thuya in Northeast Harbor. They saved all these things, and it was directly because of the fire that Bar Harbor didn’t have the money to take this house and maintain it. Then you had other houses that would start being ripped down even well into the ’60s and early ’70s, and everything was because of the fire.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me what you leaned about with regard to the psychology of making it through a fire. If you’re talking to people who were children and teenagers, this is very traumatic for them.

Kim Swan:                              Yeah, it was traumatic. Some people in the film, you almost feel like, and not necessarily in a bad way, they grew up through the fire. There’s one man that talks about … I think he was 17, and they went outside, and there was … The fire chief, I think, was outside his house, and they said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Sign this paper,” to these kids. He said, “You’re now members of the fire department. Get going.” What they were in charge of doing is finding these paths to bring sandwiches and stuff to the men fighting the fire and to lead people through these Boy Scout paths that they knew, and so there was a huge source of pride with some people. There was a lot of humor in it. When you see the Criterion Theater, which is a big theater, 700-plus seats, when that whole theater erupts in laughter because of a documentary about a sad time, you know you’ve done something right.

There’s a man that tells the story about his father being out fighting the fire and realizing he had to evacuate his family, and so he told everybody, “We have to evacuate,” so he ran in the house and said to this young boy at the time, “Where’s your mother?” He said, “She’s upstairs getting dressed.” He said, “Where the hell does she think she’s going, to a party?” The whole theater erupted because, though they were very sad stories, they were also these stories of community coming together and everybody getting together, and that was the theme.

At the end, the director used a quote, a lady that said, “Islanders come together.” Even though I think that’s a Maine-wide theme, I think Mainers always come together, for that story, it was islanders come together. I don’t think you know on a documentary film like this. It leads you. I don’t think the director knew, and we certainly didn’t know, where it was going to go, and he followed it to this beautiful place.

Lisa Belisle:                          This film has actually led you into another project.

Kim Swan:                              Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          And another film.

Kim Swan:                              Another film. We’re so excited. A neighbor of mine who just had her 90th birthday said to me after the success of the fire film … because we sold out the opening. We had red carpets. I mean we literally had a red carpet that all the stars were on, the photographer for Maine Magazine was there, Faces Maine had every single one of them, and some of these … They’re all in their 80s. She said to me one day, “You know, the next big thing here is happening is the 50th anniversary of Mount Desert Island High School is this year, 2018,” so we got thinking about that and thought, “Wow, we did a really cool things with marking the 70th anniversary, what’s this all about?”

On the face of it, okay, there’s a high school that was consolidated. Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Bar Harbor, and Mount Desert all went to separate high schools until 1968 when they came together, so that’s kind of cool, but how big a story is this? It’s huge. We’re actually working right now … The curator of the Bar Harbor Historical Society has been talking with the curator of the Rockefeller archives.

Back to the urban myths that happen, growing up in Bar Harbor, you hear this story that Mr. Rockefeller had always said he would build the high school for the island if they would call it Rockefeller High School. That’s just a well-known urban myth. If you really know the family or of the family, you know the last thing they do is ask for things to be named after them. I mean for Mr. Recent Rockefeller’s 100th birthday, they wanted to name a mountain after him, and he declined. Even though everybody believes that about the Rockefellers, it’s not true, and so now we have found, by going back through the archives, he was very involved in giving the land and buying the land but very quietly.

We’re going to be able to address things that, for the last 60 years, people have thought and how the high school started being talked about right after the fire because people had lost tax bases and can we keep these schools going? Again, it relates to all of Maine because there was so much resistance to this in some places and so much advocacy in other places. Everything on Mount Desert Island always goes back to basketball. You had guys who were superstar basketball players that couldn’t wait to consolidate and have kind of an all-star team that they could play on, but then you had other guys that might have been fourth or fifth man on their basketball team that knew, as soon as they consolidated, they wouldn’t play anymore.

It’s fascinating to hear these stories. I think it’s going to be as interesting and … I mean the audience for The Fire of ’47 was huge, but there’s going to be kids now … The director just filmed one of the championship basketball games, so he’s going to tie everybody in now, so there’s going to be 50, well, really 70 years of people, and just, again, letting the documentary find its own path and follow it has been amazing.

Lisa Belisle:                          Is it interesting to you that you’ve built your life around place and moving a place from one person to another or one company to another, and now your life is really focusing on place and the story of place in kind of a different way?

Kim Swan:                              I hadn’t thought about that, but you always have very good insights into stuff like that. That’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought about it like that, but it’s been a struggle because I love being in Portland. I still have businesses in Portland and everything, but I really … and I blame the Yorkies. You can’t travel a lot with two little Yorkies, but because of that, the last few years I’ve become so much more focused on Bar Harbor and working with the Historical Society, so yeah, it’s interesting. It’s also interesting when people come to Bar Harbor and buy a house, and a lot of what I do would be second homes or businesses, they get absorbed so fast. Bar Harbor is a town where, oh, you’ve been here five years? If you want to, it will be like you’ve been here 20 years because everybody kind of embraces this amazing history, and this complicated history, and all the different things going on.

It’s when people come from out of town that I realize you can be busy every night of the year in the winter in Bar Harbor. I didn’t know that. You see it through their eyes, and so, yeah, I think it is a sense of place and a sense of appreciating what you have and wanting to share it in any different way you can with other people, whether it’s through helping them purchase a property or understanding what’s happening and really embracing the history and taking the Historical Society … The Historical Society was a quiet little organization until we did a designer show house on a historical property with Maine Home & Design, and it was the first time that anybody had every done a fundraiser for the Bar Harbor Historical Society. They will all tell you this. That one experience has catapulted the Bar Harbor Historical Society, and it’s now one of the really talked about and, I think, admired organizations for kind of retooling the effort and saying, “Okay, first we’re going to make it so you can enjoy this historical house.” A lot of people don’t get to go into those homes.

Now we’re doing these films, and it’s all under the Historical Society umbrella, and it’s not just for local people. We have a board member that was talking about the mission statement, “We have to make these new people learn about what’s the history of this.” In my mind, it was always I’m preserving history for the people whose history it was, and that really gets you thinking. It’s everybody’s history. Nobody owns the history. If you want it to be your history, it’s yours, and how do you make it so that everybody has access to it, I guess?

Lisa Belisle:                          As you’re talking, I was thinking about a conversation I recently had with Abigail Carroll who is an oyster farmer. She told me that her oysters generally live on the bottom of the ocean floor. They started this new thing where they put them on trays next to the ones on the bottom of the ocean floor, and not only did they look different, but they tasted different, and they had a different consistency to them. I just thought, wow, what a great metaphor for us as humans, and where we live, and how we are shaped as much by the places we live in as we believe we shape those places. Now you’re talking about Bar Harbor, and you’re talking about people coming in, and I wonder if it’s not a little bit like oysters, that they start to take on the character of the place that they’re in, even kind of unwittingly.

Kim Swan:                              I think absolutely. Yeah. I think that you can see people who are … and it’s interesting because sometimes you will negotiate on a big sale, and somebody will be in New York or wherever they are, and they’ll be really tough. You get through that, and you think, “Oh, wow. He was kind of aggressive and everything but …” which I admire, so I don’t look at that as a bad thing, but then you kind of think they’re going to come to Bar Harbor and what’s it going to be like? Then it’s not there, so it’s exactly what you’re saying that that aggression and that thing that maybe fits somewhere else and that you use that mode of communication, I guess.

Then you come to Bar Harbor and that same person would never, never even raise their voice, never even … they’re just get adapted, I guess, so fast, much like the oysters. They’re going to live different ways considering what they’re surrounded by, so I think everybody calms down. We have Acadia National Park. It’s like, my gosh, that’s my backyard, what everybody wants to be … All of us in Maine, no matter where we are, everybody wants to get up there at some point. For us, it’s just where [Ava 00:53:39] and [Izzy 00:53:39] go for a walk every afternoon, so we count our blessings all the time.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve already talked about a lot of things that you’ve worked on and are working on. What’s the single biggest thing that you’re most excited for right now?

Kim Swan:                              I think the biggest thing is going to happen in the fall, actually, and I’m planning for it now. I’m really, really lucky to be acquiring a major lodging facility in the fall, and it’s something that I have had wanted forever. Everybody always says, “Why are you in the inn business in Portland, and Rockland, and all these places but not Bar Harbor?” I always said, “I want to be Kim the real estate broker in Bar Harbor. I don’t want to be this other person,” and I always used to say, “There are maybe one or two places in Bar Harbor I’d like to have,” and so the opportunity has come up and at the end of the year.

I think working on that design, and renovation, and rebranding, and ideas hands-down … I almost have to calm down because I’m so excited about it. It will launch in 2019, and it’s going to be … It’s just going to be amazing, and it’s going to be … I’m so lucky to have worked all over Maine in the lodging business, so it’s going to be something that Bar Harbor doesn’t have yet, so … because I also don’t want to compete with friends. Everybody in the business they’re almost as friends, so I never wanted to have something that would compete, so we’re going to create something completely, completely different.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I can’t wait to see it.

Kim Swan:                              You will be there on opening day, I hope.

Lisa Belisle:                          I absolutely will. How can people watch your movie The Fire of ’47?

Kim Swan:                              The Fire of ’47 is now out on DVD, and they can order that by going on We are working right now, and I don’t think it’s up yet, but we’re working on getting it onto iTunes so that people can stream it. It’s about 39 minutes. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but the DVD’s just fun to have. Brand Company did this amazing movie poster. I mean we had it all. We had the movie posters and the red carpet and everything, and so the movie poster is the cover of the DVD. Probably, that’s the easiest right now. We’re going to do more showings throughout the state. We’ve already done a lot in libraries and different theaters and everything, but pretty soon online.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking with Kim Swan who is the owner of The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty and is on the board of the Bar Harbor Historical Society and has done so many other things. I really appreciate everything that you’re doing. This has been a fascinating conversation. I will be there and to see what you’re going to be coming up with for your next big thing this fall.

Kim Swan:                              I can’t wait. I can’t wait. Thanks for having me, Lisa.

Lisa Belisle:                          Thanks for coming in.

Speaker 1:                    , where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life through free advice, workshops, and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly-expanded space, including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port where everybody is seen as a work of art, and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Lisa Belisle:                          Dr. Zach Mazone, DO, created DaySpring Integrative Wellness in Bath, Maine with the belief that true health comes from building healthy relationships with your community, with your doctor, and with yourself. This is why I am encouraging you to find out more for yourself by visiting or by calling them directly at 207-751-4775. DaySpring, wellness the way it should be.

You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, Show Number 347. Our guests have included Emily Wedick, her friend Louise, and Kim Swan. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa, and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram.

Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are happy that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Live Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, Art Collector Maine,, and by DaySpring Integrative Wellness. Our editorial producer is Kate Gardner. Our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy, and our executive producers are Andrea King and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine, or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #346: Sean Alonzo Harris and Richard Russo

Announcer:                           You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home+Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, Show Number 346, airing for the first time on May 6, 2018. Today, we speak with Sean Alonzo Harris, a photographer concentrating on narrative and environmental portraiture, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo. Thank you for joining us.

Announcer:                 , where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life, for free advice, workshops, and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest, and is located in the heart of the Old Port, 154 Middle Street. The Gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists, and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Sean Alonzo Harris is an editorial, commercial, and fine art photographer concentrating on narrative and environmental portraiture. He has also received critical acclaim for his fine art work and was recently awarded a Kindling Fund grant from Space Gallery and the Warhol Foundation for his project Visual Tensions.

Thanks for coming today.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Thank you for having me. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Let’s start with Visual Tensions.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yeah. It’s a project that’s been stewing around for a while. Basically, the idea, just because there’s so much tension between people of color and law enforcement, that just most of the focus has been on the anger and I wanted to focus in on what actually is the start of the anger. Basically, the thought process is that I would photograph the police officers and people of color in the same space and looking at each other, because most of the time, we make assumptions on the visuals before we know the person’s heart or mind or spirit. I wanted to break that down and pose that question of … to look beyond what we see and pause and then make a statement that way to ask that question. Hopefully, bunches of people can answer it in different ways, in their own ways.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What have you learned so far?

Sean Alonzo H.:                   It’s really hard to work with people because people, especially in institutions … Also to convince the public that what I’m trying to do is not trying to like, “I gotcha.” You follow me? I’m not trying to trip anyone up. I have to make sure that my intentions are honest, and I have to make sure that … I have to convince people that my intentions are honest and also that I’m going to show them with dignity. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              That’s something that you’ve probably been working with through the entirety of your career, I would think-

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              … as a photographer.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Exactly. Exactly. Basically, my photography is basically to show dignity and power and humanity. Those things are really important to me. I feel that I … Because I still study a lot about photography and the history of photography and also I look at a lot of images always. I think it’s really important to see what’s out there. A lot of the photographs that I take in, especially with people of color, a lot of them aren’t as dignified, or it’s either celebrities and athletes. But what about the doctors and the teachers and the everyday people and showing them in a presence where they’re in a place of power or in a place of dignity? That’s kind of one of the things that I like to do, just to change the history a little bit, to show another side. A lot of people are doing it, but I think that I can play my part, too.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              When I was on your website, I noticed that you had a lovely portrait of Ashley Bryan.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Lisa B.:                              When I think about dignity-

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              … I think about him. We did a story about him last year for Maine Magazine, and there’s something about him that I think you captured really well, the sort of simultaneous seriousness and joyfulness-

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right, right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              … I think, about his personality.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right. Well, Ashley is an amazing, wonderful man. I shot a story for him for another magazine, and he is such a playful, joyful spirit, and the way that he comes across, he fills the room with his love. When you see him, most of the photographs that I see of him have this sense of … They try to capture just that, the moment of, the layer, the first, the topical of him. It’s like these joyful, these moments of joy, laughter, and that is him completely.

But what he’s achieved in life and what he’s done is serious work. Just think about what’s in his mind is an amazing fete. I think that you need to sit back and pause and look at him as this man, as this powerful and intelligent, serious man because he’s serious as much as he laughs and plays. He has this very robust life, I just think. I just took a different … I just stepped and looked and took a completely different take on how I saw him.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You also did a project on the last of the Shakers.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              A few years ago.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right. Yes, yes. That was a fun project to work on. One of my favorite things to do, a photographer, is to create fine art projects and also editorial work. Because when you go off and you photograph, especially editorial magazines, you’re usually going to photograph people who have done something amazing or have come over incredible odds, and they have a story to tell, so you sit there and watch.

The Shakers project, what happened … I went up there to … It was one of those things. I don’t know if you know the story, but there was four Shakers, and there was a magazine or a newspaper came up and did a story on them, and one of the Shakers ran off with the writer, I think. I’m not exactly sure of the whole inside, but this could be gossip or rumor, but it was very, very hard for them to … It was very, very hard for us to get in there to photograph them. They were like, “No.”

We had to go in there and really talk with them and let them know our intent. I went in there. They had to interview me before I even took their photographs. I went up there to take photographs and literally thinking it would be a half a day, and it was a three-day process. I had to go back and back and back, and it was amazing. I fell in love with the people. I fell in love with the whole thing that they’ve done.

We photographed it on 8 x 10 film, which was amazing in itself, which is a great … By photographing with 8 x 10, it’s a slower process, and I think they truly respected it. It warranted that kind of respect, I think, on the photographs because by taking that time and just because of their legacy, and also, at the time, there was only three left. I thought that it just needed to have that extra, okay, we’re going to sit down and spend 30 minutes setting up my camera. I’m going to talk and we’re going to sit, and we’re going to wait for that moment so that we can take the appropriate photograph.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              On the flip side, you also have an interest in street photography-

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Well-

Dr. Lisa B.:                              … which doesn’t have the … You don’t have quite the same amount of time, I would think, to build that same level of trust.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   No, no. Street photography is one of those things. I always looked at photography as an athletic sport, and I think that you have to exercise to continuously make strides and leaps. Street photography is one of those things. It’s like an additional exercise that I give myself to do. It’s a way to be free, because most of the things that I … The way that I shoot or what I do, they’re more of a controlled environment. Environment of portraiture itself is I’m going into your environment and we’re going to look through and see what pull … We’re going to try to pull elements out.

In street photography, it is what it is. You go out and you just have to react to what you see. Sometimes it can be like, ooh, I smell something, and you just kind of follow the smell and let those things happen, or a noise or just the rhythm of the street, which is a beautiful thing. I enjoy doing it. Most of the time when I do street photography, a lot of times it’s like travel, or I end up going to some place or an event and those kind of things. It’s like the idea. Sometimes I take no photographs. Sometimes I just fall in love with the movement and everything happens. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s an exercise to keep me sharp and keep me moving.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me how you decided that photography was your path. I know that you have a background. You have an art degree.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This was an early focus of yours, but you could have done so many different things.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Why this? Why this particular art form?

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Well, I start from the beginning, beginning. Well, I asked for a tape recorder when I was, I believe, about seven for Christmas from my grandmother. My grandmother was so special, she’d try to get me anything I wanted. Yeah. There was this, where you put cassette tapes and you just tape record stuff and you make sounds and you record sounds. She got me a camera, and I’m like, “What’s this? This isn’t a tape recorder.” She’s like, “Son¸ you can record with that too.”

At the time, my parents … We lived in Cambridge, Mass., and my grandmother lived in D.C., so when I had this camera, I would take photographs of the family, cousins, aunts, and uncles, and friends down there, and then I’d come back with all the film and we’d process them and I’d look at them. It would be kind of the same thing as baseball cards, and it just happened year after year after year after year.

I outgrew my Keystone camera, which is this little camera with 1/10 film. Then I got a Pentax K1000 camera, which was amazing. Then, by the time I was 13, I was taking photographs in such a regular basis, the next step was to build a darkroom. I was talking with a guy, and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got a darkroom.” He gave me all this equipment, and I built a darkroom in my bedroom at 13. That lasted all of maybe four days because my mother probably saved my life on that one. You really can’t sleep with that kind of chemicals in your room.

Then, after that, someone asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, and it was like a no-brainer. I was just like, “A photographer,” and it wasn’t even a hesitation. It just came out of my mouth. I never even thought about it, but that was what … Then, when I was a sophomore in high school and I won a national award from photography, and it was the James Van Der Zee Black Heritage Award. I won that. I won first place and honorable mention. The next year, I won honorable mention. Then, when I was a senior, I won first place again. It was just like those things just kind of happened, and here I am. I just never put it down. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I also remember reading about an interest that you had in baseball and a project that you did several years ago that had to do with baseball.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You got very involved in this project, and some of the photos you took were very striking.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yes. Yes. I did a project of vintage baseball. I love baseball. That was another passion that I had, but I just wasn’t quite that good to get to the next level. But this project that I did was vintage baseball project, which was the Dirigo Vintage Base Ball Team, and they play with rules from the 1860s. They play really hard. A lot of these guys played in college and stuff like that. When I first thought of shooting these guys, I thought it was more like a reenactment kind of thing, but when I went to photograph them, they actually played really hard. It was awesome.

Me understanding the game and watching the game, it was just like this really nice … I had a really nice understanding of what was happening, what was going on, so I felt really comfortable to photograph it. The whole idea of the project was to photograph it in a way where it holds the vintage integrity. We did shoot some large format 8 x 10 stuff and digital, and then I did treatments to the digital so that they could have that same vintage feel without making it look like I shot digital and trying to make it vintage. I worked really hard to make it have that vintage feel without taking away from the actual project. Because sometimes what happens is you make it look vintage and that’s what you see versus the image. It’s like, oh, it has … That’s the first thing you go to. But I tried to balance the two so that it was seamless.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Why is the history of photography so important to you?

Sean Alonzo H.:                   The history of photography is, for me, I don’t think … Because of the style of what I do and the respect that I have for my craft, I believe that it’s paramount for you to understand the history of what’s gone before you. There’s so many great stories when you dig down deep into the history of photography, someone’s life, someone who triumphed, some people who’ve done great photography but didn’t have any success until they passed, and some of the techniques that have gone before. I just think it’s really important.

I just bought two brand new books that were amazing, that I had no idea that existed. One was Richard Avedon and James Baldwin did a book just recently. Not recently, in the ’60s, and it’s called Nothing Personal. Just the history and the understanding in that relationship was a beautiful thing. I would have never known that Richard Avedon and James Baldwin went to the same high school. That’s an amazing thing.

Then I just bought another one. It just came in the mail three days ago. It was Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellis, and they did a beautiful book, Invisible Man, and I didn’t realize. This was a new publication that came out from Chicago Institute of Art. Newer, I should say. I think it came out 2014. Yeah, to understand those relationships of the writer, the writer’s role, and the visual artist’s role.

By me digging down and figuring out history, those books would have never crossed my path, but because I’m looking and constantly trying to study and figure things out, these do come up. It just gives it another breath and life of two … I have many books of Richard Avedon and many books of Gordon Parks, and I have a few books of James Baldwin and a few books … Those things put together, two loves that come together, I think by studying, those things become so much more and they become treasures.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              As you’re talking, I’m thinking about the work I do as a writer and working with the photographers that I have worked with for the magazines and how even that dynamic can really shape a story.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Because I’ve worked with people like Matt Cosby or Greta Rybus or Ann Little, Nicole Wolf. Each of them as photographers have their own take on things, visual sense. It’s really fascinating to see how they interact with people. As I’m creating a word-based story, they’re creating kind of a simultaneous visual story.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about some of your experience in working with writers.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Most of the stories that I’ve gone out to, the writing a lot of times is almost done. The couple of times that I’ve worked on stories that the writer was on, was there, I believe that you know the photographers that you are working with. I think that’s really important. I think it’s harder to figure out your place sometimes with the writer if the story isn’t written as the photographer is shooting, because you want to respect both sides of the story.

I think it takes a little bit of finesse, and then you kind of just … Because, for me, for instance, I worked on a story and it was about a particular subject matter that I knew a lot about historically, and the writer really came in in a very narrow point of view. Without me saying, “Well, you know, back in the ’30s this was going on and this was the norm back in the ’30s,” so I really had to dance around without putting my bent on their story and just kind of go along with it and just listen and try to just do what I knew how to do and take photographs.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yeah, I love hearing this from you because I have also … I remember a story that I did with Matt Cosby about the Special Surfers Program down in Kennebunk. He actually helped shape the story in some ways because he was really great about getting in the water with these younger people on their surf boards, and he was able to say, “You really should talk with this person. You should really talk to this person.” I think that he actually made the story better for me, and I can see how that would be … It could go either way.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right. It could actually-

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You can absolutely have a situation where the writer and the photographer are at odds.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Right, right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I think learning to figure out that interaction can be really valuable.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Well, it is. I think as professionals, I think that that’s kind of our duty. First, we need to figure out boundaries, and then we need to figure out where we can … I don’t want to use the word negotiate, but where we can figure out to collaborate and try to make the story as fit as it can be. Sometimes when I’m doing stories, traveling, doing stories with magazines and stuff like that, the writer will go alongside, which is a different kind of thing because they already have these bullet points, so things that need to be, this is kind of where we’re going with it. They have a lot more background on the person, so we discuss either on the plane or we discuss in the hotel room before we even go out and figure out. We kind of set up a schedule of writing and of photographs so we don’t overlap and those kind of things. It is a little different in some ways.

Yeah. I’ve worked side by side by, I guess, some writers. Then other times, it’s just, okay, this is the story. Go shoot, and I’ll see what comes back. I’ll see the story. Most of the time, I’ll know who the writer is, so it’s good too.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Talk to me about the Biennial. You’ve been honored recently by the Portland Museum of Art by being part of that process.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Oh, yeah. That was pretty cool. Well, I got an email from Mark Bessire and he was like, “Hey, I want to do a studio visit.” I’m like, “Sure.” The next question was, “Are you looking for anything special?” And he was like, “No. I just want to see some stuff.” He came by and he pulled out some stuff, and he’s like, “I really like that.” He took some photographs with his phone, and he left. He was, “Hey, see you later. Bye.” I get an email probably three weeks later, and he says, “Hey, I want to come back, and would you mind if Nat May would come by? He’s the curator for the Biennial.”

At that point, I knew what it was. The whole casual kind of thing that I had with Mark was like, oh, okay, now I need to pull out some other stuff. He picked out some photographs that I really liked, which I believe would have been worthy to be in the Biennial. But I was working on this new body of work which I hadn’t shown anyone yet, which I was waiting to … I could show some of it. I knew the work was strong, but I wasn’t ready to present it at that time. Then, I was like, oh, I got to show this new work that I was doing, which is the Kennedy Park Project, which is in Portland, Maine, Kennedy Park. I guess it’s one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Maine. I could be wrong, but it’s pretty diverse.

I pulled this work out, and they were like, whoa. The images they picked were four photographs of basketball players, and they’re black basketball players and their skin, because of the light, it was so amazing, almost became metallic. They were just so beautiful. I’m really proud of these images. They’re just really beautiful moments captured.

Back to the street photography, this is kind of what happened with … That was, I would consider more street photography or as an artist, you do have a visual language, and I think that when you can hone in and understand your visual language, it makes it a lot easier for you to move through your craft or figure out exactly where you need to be or what images that you need to capture at the particular time. With these images what I believe happened is that they expanded my voice just so, so I was really excited about it.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This has been a fascinating conversation. I really enjoyed having the chance to talk with you. You and I have interacted many times over the years.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              To be able to sit down and have a little bit more of an in-depth back-and-forth is pretty wonderful.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Awesome.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I appreciate it.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   This is a wonderful experience. Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’ve been speaking with Sean Alonzo Harris, who is an editorial, commercial and fine art photographer concentrating on narrative and environmental portraiture. I’m sure we’re going to continue to see great things from you, and we appreciate your coming in today.

Sean Alonzo H.:                   Thank you for having me. Thank you very much.

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Novelist and screenwriter Richard Russo is the author of eight novels, two short story collections, and the memoir Elsewhere. His novel Empire Falls won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2002. His new collection of essays, The Destiny Thief, comes out in May.

Thanks for coming in.

Richard Russo:                    Great to be here.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that I have this book of your essays in my hand because I had just finished a book of essays that I believe were by Neil Gaiman. Really an interesting, I guess, look over his life as a writer because he had done some reviews, he had done some pieces for other people’s books. And yours was actually an interesting kind of time capsule of your life as well, but in a slightly different way.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah. Yeah, I haven’t read the Gaiman. But there are a fair number of books that are coming out right now with writers who are maybe not quite as long in the tooth as I am, but writers who have been writing for a while, so there’s Neil Gaiman, and Ann Patchett had a wonderful book of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, that came out a few years ago.

Now, Lorrie Moore had a book that just came out, I think this week or last week, too, that looks at a better life as a fiction writer but also as an essayist and book reviewer, and it’s getting a lot of attention too, so there’s something in the water, I guess, that’s causing writers who have been at it for a while to take a step back and try to figure out if there has been some sort of pattern. Of course, this book is called The Destiny Thief, and it’s really about that. As I look back on my life as a writer, it just seems also just so incredibly improbable, all of it.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              The Destiny Thief, and you wrote about that. You were kind of contrasting your life with the life of another individual-

Richard Russo:                    Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              … who was also a writer.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              At least in theory, at the time, it seemed like might be the one who had the success and you were known as the one who was going to be the teacher.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Then, somehow something shifted and you had this success as a writer, and I believe something about he called you up to apologize for a drunk dial one night, and you said, “Well, thank you for your apology, but you didn’t drunk-dial me.”

Richard Russo:                    Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me a little bit about that.

Richard Russo:                    Well, there was this … I gave him a fictional name because I didn’t want him to be embarrassed by anything that I might be recounting in this particular essay, but I remember I was at that point a … We were both students at the University of Arizona taking a workshop class together, but I was almost finished with my PhD, and I had only discovered then at pushing 30 that I thought I might want to be a writer.

I expected the director of creative writing, when I told him I was interested, I expected him to put me in this graduate-level writing workshop. There was a very strong one at the time at the University of Arizona. I expected to be in with other graduate students, but he took one look at my writing and said, “No, no. I think not,” and he put me in this undergraduate, sophomore undergraduate class. Everybody in it was at least 10 years younger than I was.

There was this one really, really talented young man who was writing this rock and roll novel, and it was so good. I was so jealous because he had at a fairly tender age discovered not only what he wanted to do with his life but what really mattered to him. He seemed to have a great read on what his subject matter might be, and he was just, despite being 10 years younger, was just miles ahead, and I could tell it. I think that the instructor in the class recognized that talent and where he was in the overall scheme of things. I think every other student in the class did, too. He was the star.

I did get better, and ultimately I got into the graduate workshop, but I don’t think that there was a time during that … In my entire apprenticeship at the University of Arizona, I don’t think that there was ever a time when if you had taken a poll of the participants in the workshop and asked them who’s going to be … who 10 years from now, 20 years, 30 years from now is not only going to be writing, but maybe writing successfully, who’s got a career, I don’t think I would have appeared on any of those lists starting with that first sophomore class.

As I was thinking about all of this, I just kept thinking about this one incredibly talented young writer who did get in touch with me years later, and he was puzzled by exactly the same things that I was puzzled by. How could this have happened? What kind of cosmic joke has just been perpetrated here? As if I would know, as if I could explain it to him.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Well, at least you took it that way and not, “Well, of course, I would have been good. I don’t know why you even questioned it.”

Richard Russo:                    Yeah, yeah. But that’s what people do. Most people, I think they get to a certain point if they’ve been fortunate, if they’ve had some success, the story that they kind of want to write or rewrite is, “Oh, you know, it was all hard work and it was all talent and hard work.” They want to suggest that they knew it all along and that it was only a matter of time for things to play out.

I think a much more honest assessment of success, certainly my success … I don’t want to speak for everybody here, but my own sense is that if I got to do this all over again, without the knowledge of what has happened to me, but if I had the same opportunities another 99 times to round it off to a full hundred, the other 99 wouldn’t turn out anything like this one. There are just too many variables. You make too many mistakes. Sometimes you get things right, but just as often, you get things wrong and you change something and you change everything.

Yeah, part of the reason that Destiny fascinates me so much, the whole idea of Destiny, is that you get the sense when you’re looking at things through one end of the telescope, when you’re young and you’re looking at all the things that could happen and you see how many moving parts there are. Then you get a little older and you’re looking at things through the other end of the telescope, and it all seems kind of inevitable. Well, of course, it isn’t. It isn’t. The other view is probably closer to the truth.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I particularly enjoyed the story of the gravestone and the toilet because I think it shows this interesting challenge that there is these days with having a sense of humor and perhaps a little bit of irreverence about oneself and one’s writing.

Richard Russo:                    Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Because what you were describing was … And I’m going to let you tell the story because I found it very, very funny, and I read it to the person who was with me and he also found it very funny. But you were describing something that other people in your family didn’t really find all that humorous at all, but every time you would look at this situation, you would crack yourself up.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Part of what you say is that it’s kind of about your ability to help other people see your way of looking at things, not trying to be funny but just present it so other people understand the humor.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about that story.

Richard Russo:                    Well, the story starts out true. There’s some embellishment later on, but the story starts out as true. When we moved to Maine, we bought this house that had two features that over the years were interesting. There was this apple tree out in the back yard that grew every year and dropped these poisonous, worm-infested green apples out there that I used to mow around on my riding mower.

What was interesting was at the base of the tree there was this gravestone, and it was filled out. Someone had intended to use this gravestone, and apparently there was a stone cutter who lived in the house many, many, many years ago. I never did find out why the gravestone didn’t get used, but there it was leaning up against this kind of poisonous apple tree. It was as if the gravestone itself was in some way poisoning the tree, just guaranteeing that every year, you’d get this harvest of really disgusting poisonous green apples.

There was an inscription. We know who the person was who died, and he was a Syrian, I believe, and how he ended up in Maine we don’t know, but there was this … Some of the details were kind of comic, or to me anyway they were kind of comic. Here is this kind of emblem of death itself. There’s a gravestone in the middle of our back yard, and to almost anybody, this thing would have been a symbol that we saw every day, a symbol of our own mortality.

Why in the world, number one, would you leave it there? When we tried to sell the house, people would come by and they would see that and decide they didn’t want the house on the basis of the gravestone. Most people see that symbol and it reminds them of what we don’t want to be reminded of, the fact that we’re all going to die.

What to me was interesting about that was that it didn’t affect me that way at all. So what? So it was a gravestone. I didn’t really believe that it was poisoning the apples in the tree, nor did it particularly bother me that this Syrian, young Syrian man had somehow come to Maine and died there. Didn’t bother me at all that his stone was leaning up against my apple tree. Didn’t bother me as I was riding around it.

After a very short time, I just learned not to see it. It just did not register on my writerly imagination at all until one day when we were doing some renovations on the house, and in order to put some tile down in the three-quarter bath we had to pull up the commode. I say we, the people we hired had to pull up the commode. For a day or two, while they were working on the bathroom, out there on the back deck sat the commode. Nothing else is there, no folding chairs. It was late in the autumn. We’d brought everything back in. Here, right in the middle of the back deck was this commode, open. Leaves were falling and swirling out of the sky into the commode.

When I was sitting there in my office writing, every now and then, I would look up and I would see the gravestone in the distance and right in front of the gravestone, the commode, and it just cracked me up every time. When my kids came home, my daughters came home, I would say, “Look at that,” and my wife the same way. They just kind of squinted at it, and didn’t understand really why it just tickled me so.

But the essay, the essay is really about that, for a writer, that which slows you down. Whatever it is, because I was able to look at that gravestone, something that really caused other people to slow down, somebody who was thinking about buying the house and liked everything about it but then saw that gravestone and it stopped them right in their tracks. They couldn’t go any farther. I learned not to see that at all, but put the comic thing, put the commode right in front of it, and now suddenly, my imagination is just in full bloom. I’ve got all kinds of possibilities for fiction.

I think that day, I probably already knew it, but if I hadn’t known it, I think that day, seeing those two things right in the same frame and knowing what interested me and what didn’t, particularly was a crystallizing moment in the sense that I thought, all right, I know who I am now. I’m a comic writer. Because most writers, it’s a question of what slows you down, what causes you to look twice, what causes you to really see something. For me, it’s almost always life’s foolishness, people looking for dignity and it eludes them. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You wrote about the craft of writing, and you spoke about your, I believe it was your grandfather, who was a glove-maker in upstate New York.

Richard Russo:                    Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And how he was part of, I believe, a guild and actually went and spent two years learning how to make gloves-

Richard Russo:                    Yep.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              … which was unpaid, I think, and-

Richard Russo:                    If it wasn’t unpaid, it certainly wasn’t well-paid. I think at that time in the guild that he was part of, you were probably dependent on the largesse of whoever was teaching it, and probably whoever that was wasn’t making a fortune either. I don’t think glove cutters ever made an enormous amount of money. My grandfather, his timing not being great, kind of came at the very end of this whole process.

But, yeah, he was in a guild, and I’m sure that during those first couple of years before he finished his apprenticeship and became a glove cutter, a certified glove cutter in his own right, I’m sure that he and my grandmother, although they hadn’t married yet, they couldn’t afford to until he got that first job as a glove cutter, I’m sure that they were living very, very hand-to-mouth as he was learning his trade.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And there is something about writing which is not dissimilar. There is certainly an art to it. Everybody understands that, but there is a craft to it.

Richard Russo:                    Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Something about that time that one needs to spend often largely unpaid and lots and lots of work, that maybe not everybody understands in this day and age when it seems like it’s so easy to just throw words together.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah, yeah. Yeah. One of the most difficult things about teaching yourself how to write and teaching other people how to write is that almost everybody misunderstands just how long it’s going to take for you to get there. Ann Patchett said in one of the best essays I’ve ever read about writing called The Getaway Car, she says that anybody who has ever picked up a cello knows instinctively that you’re not going to be playing that instrument in Carnegie Hall any time soon. It feels foreign, and there are so many things that you need to do, and the first time you draw that bow, you understand intuitively just how much you have to learn, just how difficult and complicated what you’re setting about to do is.

You factor in your imagination, if when you pick that thing up and you love it, despite its difficulty, you still in your mind have to say to yourself, “This is going to be a very, very long road that I’m going down before I can, number one, probably play for the relatives when they come over on Thanksgiving. It’s going to be a while before I’m even that good.” Then, during an apprenticeship, the various things that you have to do over a period of years and even with just astonishing dedication, it’s going to take you a very long time because what you’re looking at here is something foreign if you’re going to have to learn it. It’s not part of you.

Whereas for a writer, the problem is that it’s words, and you’ve been talking almost your entire life, and so you think, why not? Right? A year should be plenty of time, shouldn’t it? We’re going to write the words down. We’re going to put them through a spell check. I have stories to tell. My parents had stories to tell. I come from a family of bull-throwers. Why shouldn’t I be able to tell stories? It’s just an extension of what I’ve been doing for a very long time. I still think of that in terms of my own family. I come from a long line of people who were telling stories and pretty good storytellers, but they’re not writing. But they’re good storytellers, my father, in particular.

But the amount of time that it actually takes to get good is … Most writers just misjudge, and they don’t misjudge by a couple of months. They misjudge by years how long it’s going to take, partly because the competition is stiff, but also because you don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s very difficult to judge that gap which seems shorter than it is. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Well, this is a quote that I really identified with, “Hunger remembered is not the same as hunger felt. Indeed, for some, that’s the final cruel joke. That hard-won mastery of craft coincides almost to the minute with passion’s ebb. Art offered shoulders to stand on often has not been yours.”

Richard Russo:                    Right. Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Because that thing that you’re talking about, that grabbing the cello where you have that passion, or in your case, in this book, you’re describing grabbing a guitar-

Richard Russo:                    Guitar, yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              … as a teenager.

Richard Russo:                    Because that was my first hunger.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yeah.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              But I mean that idea that I really, really want to do this.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’re right. Over time, that doesn’t necessarily stay at the same level. In fact, for most people, it won’t.

Richard Russo:                    No. For me, part of the cruelty was that when I felt that first hunger, and as I described in that essay, that first hunger to play rock and roll at a very high volume, what was coming between me and doing that I thought was equipment. I had kind of a beat-up guitar and an amplifier with one blown speaker, and I got together with some other high school kids and we formed a band. Obviously, we weren’t very good, but we deceived ourselves into thinking that if we just had better equipment, we would get better and we would become worthy of our instruments. We would become worthy of our drums, worthy of our guitars, our keyboards and all of that.

I did, I played band. I played in various bands in high school. I put myself, in part, through graduate school playing 12-string guitar in a restaurant in Tucson, the same gig for seven years or so. And I finally got, at some point, I finally got this gorgeous Gibson guitar with pearl inlay on the neck, and it was a 12-string. You put that thing up next to a microphone. You’re singing into one microphone and you’ve got your 12-string guitar, a really good one with a throaty, it’s got some base to it. You strum that thing through a microphone and it sounds like an orchestra. It sounds really, really good.

But I remember getting that 12-string guitar, the kind of instrument that I had been lusting for since I was 15, and hearing how good it sounded also convinced me for the first time that I was never going to be as good as that instrument, that I was always going to be … I could get better, but I was never going to be as good as that instrument was. Yeah, the hunger is wonderful. It’ll keep you going. It’ll drive you forward. That desire is sufficient to keep you going for a very long time, but my god, it can be heartbreaking. That realization that you finally have everything at your disposal, you can’t blame it on anything else anymore and the realization that, all right, I’ve achieved a kind of level here. I might get a little bit better, but I’m never going to be good. I’m never going to be really good.

Writing, on the other hand, was something that despite the fact that nobody else seemed to think I would be any good, at least for a very long time, that was something that as I continued to plug away, it did seem to me that as bad as the writing was at times, and there were many times that it was really bad, I began to sense that it might be okay. Not so much because I would be good enough or that I would be skilled enough, but that the people that I wanted to write about, the characters who have graced my novels all of these years, what happened was that at some point, I became convinced that they were good enough, these imaginary, these people that I wanted to write about, the kinds of lives that they lived.

Not many people were telling their stories. And so at some point, it was different than looking at that guitar and realizing how beautiful it was and that I was never going to be worthy of it. It seemed to me that maybe because these characters who were swimming in my head seemed so real and their stories seemed so important, it seemed to me that despite the daily evidence that the writing wasn’t as good as it should be, I never felt that I’ll never be worthy of these people or I’ll never be able to tell their stories. It always seemed to me that if I kept at it, maybe I’d be able to.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              One of the pieces that I enjoyed reading was the one that you wrote about Jennifer Boylan. It’s very interesting to me now because this was something that happened how many years ago? 15 years ago maybe?

Richard Russo:                    Oh, I think … As a matter of fact, well, yeah, something like that. The 10-year anniversary of She’s Not There, Jenny’s groundbreaking memoir, was a couple of years ago, I think. So, yeah, we’re talking pretty close to, pretty close to 15 years now. Of course, I think of it as longer than that because we were friends longer than that. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’ve enjoyed our conversation, and I encourage people to read The Destiny Thief, because it’s really very interesting, and it covers a lot of different topics in different ways.

Richard Russo:                    Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I think it offers an encapsulation of much of the things that you did outside of the fiction writing, which is great to have because as a writer, it’s nice to know that there’s a larger … We’ve used the word landscape before, the landscape itself, the landscape of craft that goes beyond just what you specialize in.

I’ve been speaking with novelist and screenwriter Richard Russo, who is the author of eight novels, two short story collections, and the memoir Elsewhere. His novel Empire Falls won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2002, and his new collection of essays, The Destiny Thief, comes out in May.

Thanks so much for coming in today.

Richard Russo:                    Thank you, Lisa. I really enjoyed it.

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Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, Show Number 346. Our guests have included Sean Alonzo Harris and Richard Russo. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes.

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This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #345: Danielle Devine and Rachel Walls

Announcer:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle, and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor in chief of Maine, Maine Home+Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio. Show number 345, airing for the first time on April 29th, 2018. Today we speak with Danielle Devine, the managing editor of Maine Home+Design, and Rachel Walls, the owner of the gallery Rachel Walls Fine Art located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. Thank you for joining us.

Announcer:                  where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life. For free advice, workshops, and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you and the Portland area.

Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest, and is located in the heart of the Old Port. 154 Middle Street. The Gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists, and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Danielle Devine is the managing editor of Maine Home+Design, and has been writing, editing, and managing art design at architecture magazines for the past 12 years. Thanks for coming in.

Danielle Devine:               Thank you for having me.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It wasn’t that far a distance for you to travel actually, since your office-

Danielle Devine:               Right down the hall.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Literally right down the hall. But for you to be here with us, after being a writer for our magazines for such a long time, that is actually a journey in and of itself.

Danielle Devine:               Yes. I feel like I started writing for Maine Home+Design the year I moved to Maine, which was about five years ago. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s really nice to be in-house now, and getting to be a part of the staff and learn what you guys do here.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You have an interesting background, because you didn’t initially realize that you wanted to go into magazines. You went in a very different direction at first.

Danielle Devine:               Yes. It’s funny. When I was younger, I always was drawn to art. I would sketch when I felt low, and I would look at beautiful pictures just as a release. And my parents were very interested in me being involved in music. My brother was a natural musician, and they tried everything with me. Clarinet lessons, violin, piano, and I just was not talented in that way. It was actually my brother who stepped in and was like, “She’s not a musician. She’s an artist.”

So, art became very important to me. A big part of my life in high school. I even went so far as to make a portfolio for college. I applied to RISD, well, I wanted to apply to RISD and SCAD, but my parents weren’t ready to support that decision. So, I went to college and I majored in English and Art History.

And from there, I got a job in finance. When I was working in finance, it was great, because you make a lot of money in finance. But something was missing. I wanted to find a way to integrate art in my life, so I went back to school. I went to Parsons School of Design, and I studied design and architecture. In that program, I was lucky enough to work at several museums, learn about great architecture and design, industrial designers. And what I really wanted to do was become a curator, and so I had worked at The Met. I was offered a job at The Met, but the salary was just too low for me to make in New York City.

I was like, “What’s the next best thing I could do? Where could I make a little bit more money? How about publishing?” So, I applied for this position in publishing. Thought I’d only be there a couple of months, maybe a year. Save up enough money to be able to take a curatorial job or maybe a job at an auction house. But things moved along, and I ended up really loving working at this magazine, which was an art-based magazine, and ended up there for a really long time. Worked my way up from an assistant to an editor, which is as low as you can go, to managing editor.

It was really there that I started appreciating design more and architecture. From that art magazine, it was the Magazine Antiques, it’s still going, I launched with a couple other people a magazine called Modern, which just focused on design and architecture. So, that was a crazy life, living in New York and working in publishing. But yeah, it was quite a difference from wanting to be a curator to becoming an editor. Quite a shift.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              But in some way, it kind of wove together a lot of different threads of your life to that point.

Danielle Devine:               Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’m interested in why your parents were so excited to have you be a musician, and the art piece just didn’t quite resonate with them. I don’t know that you can answer a question about how your parents thought or felt.

Danielle Devine:               I think because they saw … My brother was the oldest, and they saw how talented he was. They just assumed that I would probably share that talent. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t. It just wasn’t me. Eventually, they did become supportive of my passion for the arts, especially once they knew I could make a career out of it somehow. But, I don’t know, they were both into real estate.

I was the first person, my brother ended up passing away my senior year of high school, so, I actually was the first person to graduate from college in my family. They had really high hopes, and they didn’t think studio art was going to bring me there. But they knew if I was an English major or something like that, I would be able to segue into something more professional. They were very excited when I got a job in finance, and not so excited when I left it.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You know, it’s an interesting thing, because as you know, I have children who are ages 17, 22, and 24. You have children yourself who are quite a bit younger. But, you feel protective of them. You want what’s best for them. And in many ways, you see that the world can be a difficult place. So, it seems very practical, go into finance, go into real estate. Do something that makes a lot of sense. So, I would not have understood that until I had come to this place as a parent myself. That really, it is out of absolute love that you want your child to have this security, I guess.

Danielle Devine:               I completely understand it now that I’m on the other side. But then, definitely a lot of teenage angst, and being very upset.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And I also understand that piece, because it’s so interesting to have people around you say, “No, no. Do this. This is what you should do because it makes the most sense.” Where inside of you, you’re thinking or feeling, “No, it’s just not my swimming pool.”

Danielle Devine:               Exactly.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is just not where I’m meant to be floating around.

Danielle Devine:               Totally.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              But it takes a while to get to the place where you can actually jump out of that swimming pool and go to the pond.

Danielle Devine:               It’s true. It’s very true. I feel very lucky I was able to do something with art that I wanted to do from such a young age. Right now, it’s just my dream. I get to look at beautiful things every day, and discover new things. I think the best part of this job is learning something new every day. It’s kind of just an extension of school a little bit. I never want to stop learning. As old as I get, I want to learn something, hopefully, new every day. It’s pretty cool.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And that’s the other piece I think is interesting, is when you’re growing up and you’re in high school, nobody ever says, “Oh, you could work in the magazine business.”

Danielle Devine:               No. I never thought that was an option.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s not really until you’ve actually been out in the world a little while wandering around, that you finally say, “Oh, look. There’s people doing this kind of job that I think I would really enjoy. I didn’t even know that it existed before.” So, it’s not like you could’ve set a goal to go in that direction.

Danielle Devine:               Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Somehow you ended up here despite just that.

Danielle Devine:               Yeah. It was a strange path, but it was great.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              In your job as the managing editor for Maine Home+Design, there’s a lot of coordination. There’s a lot of moving pieces. You’re working with architects, and interior designers, and writers, and photographers. And there’s really a lot of bringing people together to create a story about essentially what’s kind of a living, breathing work of art, someone’s home. Describe that process a little for me.

Danielle Devine:               Well, it’s quite unique. I’ve been on the writer’s side and I’ve been on the managing side. And I think what’s so great about Maine Home+Design is, the publication I worked for in New York, we covered architecture obviously, and a lot of homes all over the world, and a lot of Manhattan apartments. But what makes Maine Home+Design so special and unique is the close interaction that we have with these interior designers, architects, and all the players, all the contractors, and really getting to know the owners, as well.

I noticed that as a freelancer, I thought I was really lucky to have such a close relationship with the story. When I wrote before, I looked at the pictures, I would maybe see the house, speak a little bit to the architect and the interior designer. Never actually got to speak to the owner. Very rarely.

And with our magazine, I think it’s so nice that we get this full story of everyone and how they play a part, and everyone gets their due credit in how this home was made. There’s always, and you don’t know it at first, but this lovely story always erupts. It’s quite special.

I love being able to work with our writers now, and see how their story is going to develop, and the relationships that they’re going to make. I think that’s what makes Maine Home+Design so unique, is the close relationships that we have. It’s unlike any other publication I’ve worked for.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              There’s also a lot of pride that people have in whatever piece of the puzzle is theirs. Talking to individuals who design kitchens, for example.

Danielle Devine:               Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              These are individuals who, their piece is very important, very special. They work closely with the architect. They work closely with the home owner. And it’s something that I personally wouldn’t have had as much knowledge of before starting to come in and work with the magazines. These little things that we can take for granted, there’s a lot of care that goes into them.

Danielle Devine:               Yes. Every part of the house has a special player, I guess. Kitchen design in itself is fascinating to me. I feel like I’m learning more and more about it every day. And I think the thing is, not everyone realizes there’s certain people that come into play with designing an area of the house, that there is a kitchen designer that things out everything that you’re enjoying in that kitchen. And, it’s not just the aesthetics, but how everything’s going to work, which is very important in somewhere like a kitchen.

I think we try to work hard at giving everyone the credit that’s due. It’s not just, I mean, we have very lovely and talented architects and landscape architects and builders, but it’s the other people too, the contractors that really make the house a house. It really wouldn’t function the way it does without them. So, I think that’s something that is important that we acknowledge the big participants.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And sometimes, even the smaller design pieces are so much more meaningful than we realize until we dig into it a little bit. My brother-in-law is a stonemason, and he and his brother and his father have all worked as stonemasons. They build these fireplaces that are amazing central pieces of people’s living spaces that really transform an entire house around it. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that was true until you saw a space with and without these fireplaces.

Danielle Devine:               That’s funny you say that, fireplace. When we moved to Maine, we found a house with a fireplace, which in Manhattan is pretty rare. We were really excited about that. Now I go into these homes, and especially working at this magazine, and I see the fireplaces and some of them are just beyond gorgeous.

I think what’s really nice about Maine is that we have these natural elements, like beautiful stone and wood, that we can integrate into the house. I think a lot of the architects and builders and people that work on the houses here want to bring in the nature into the house. That’s quite unique, that we’re lucky enough to have these natural resources that we can add to the design.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You have two children. And you also value the beauty of a home. I know that when I was growing up and my children were small, sometimes it was a difficult balance to keep the room around me, the house around me, just even standing up nevermind feeling beautiful. How do you balance that?

Danielle Devine:               It’s quite unique in our house too, because my husband’s an architect, and obviously, I do what I do. And we really value a nicely designed home, and a neat home. We have a one year old and a six year old, so there’s a lot of cleaning up, teaching them how to clean up. But sometimes we just have to let it go. But, we try to do our best. Yeah, everything that’s in our house, we try to have it be somewhat meaningful. I mean, we have a lot of the plastic toys that most parents have and stuff like that, but we try to limit it. Everything that we own, we try to have some meaning to it.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’ve also noticed that a home space kind of grows and evolves with the family. When the children are young, things look a certain way. They get a little older, and things look a little different. Now obviously in my family, we have only the one child who is left at the house.

Danielle Devine:               So, now you can buy really nice things.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And we can buy much nicer things that we once were able to. And not only that, but generally, because my other kids are out of the house, everything kind of stays where you leave it, which is probably a stage that you have not reached yet.

Danielle Devine:               That’s true. Yes, that is very true. We also have a young dog. What’s funny is, we both appreciate smart design, good design. When we got married, there were a few things that we wanted. We wanted a really nice couch and rocking chair and rug. The rug actually happened to be a Maine rug, Angela Adams rug. So we saved up all our money, got these pieces that we really wanted, like an Eames chair and this nice couch. And, they are both destroyed. But it’s worth it. We lived with pieces, we’re still living with them. It still has great design, but they just have some imperfections now.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And I think you’ve said it, when you said you just kind of have to let go of some things.

Danielle Devine:               Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You could still really value the stuff, but you also really value the kids.

Danielle Devine:               Yes. We do value the kids more than the stuff.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              When you moved to Maine five years ago, that must’ve been a pretty big leap as somebody from New York. What prompted that?

Danielle Devine:               I had my first child in New York. I was working in publishing. Pretty much not seeing that child at all. I would actually keep her up late at night so I could have some time with her. And then, we made the most of our weekends. But, I didn’t grow up in Manhattan. I grew up in Florida and my husband grew up in Vermont. I just never imagined my life in the city. My husband’s family lives in Maine. His parents live in York and his sister lives in Portland. We would come and visit, and I was like, “I want this. This is what I want. I need to find a way to make this happen, because this place is amazing.”

My husband was like, “You’re nuts. We can’t do that. You’re in publishing, and I’m an architect. It just can’t happen.” I was like, “We’ll figure out a way.” So we both decided we would jump and do it. His architecture firm let him work remotely. And my magazine let me work remotely. And we made it work, because we really loved Maine. Then things just kind of fell into place eventually.

It was quite hard to make this work, but I’m really happy we could. Our lives are a lot less chaotic. We’re, I think, happier people, and we get to spend time with our kids. I think that’s such a big part of our lives right now, is being able to explore Maine with especially our six year old. Going on the trails with her, and she’s snowboarding now. So, we’re really trying to embrace everything Maine has to offer.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You and I are stepping into these magazines at a very interesting time, because the Maine Home+Design is 11 years old. And the magazine that Susan Grisanti and Kevin Thomas put together is the original magazine for the entire Maine Media Collective, has this history behind it, this heritage. I know it’s only 10 years old, so it’s a strong statement.

Danielle Devine:               It was the flagship magazine.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yeah. That’s a big deal. And Rebecca Falzano, who is just recently the editor in chief, she was here for probably 9 years out of those 11. You’ve come in as the managing editor for Maine Home+Design, and I’m stepping in as the editor in chief. And we have these wonderful things that are already in existence, and these wonderful teams that we’re working with, but it’s a little intimidating.

Danielle Devine:               It is. But, I don’t know, it’s also so much fun. I think it is quite a change, but it’s a change that we were prepared for. I think good things are in store, and we have a lot of great ideas. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun figuring out what’s the next step for Maine Home+Design. We already have some great ideas, so we’re good.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              We are good. And you know what? I think you’re right. It is a lot of fun. It’s so interesting too, as we actually are in a new office space.

Danielle Devine:               A beautiful office space.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              A beautiful office space. And all the things that were good, we’ve continued to carry through. And all these wonderful relationships that we have with people in the community, we’ve continued to build on those. So, it is a very exciting time. So, hoping to continue that rich, again, 10 year heritage. I think that’s not only possible, but entirely likely. I think it will be a lot of fun. So for people who are interested in learning more about design, architecture, art within the state of Maine, what do you recommend that they do, aside from reading the magazines?

Danielle Devine:               First of all, pick up a copy of Maine Home+Design. But seriously, I think there’s so much just around you here. There’s a lot of great design. Obviously, going to the museum is a nice step. So, I would say to tap into all the resources we have here. I love going and popping into the galleries. That’s always a great way to learn about local artists. And we’re lucky enough in downtown that we have several galleries to stop into. Yeah, just look around you, and you’ll find some pretty awesome stuff.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve looked at recently for the magazines?

Danielle Devine:               Project wise, there are so many good ones coming up. We have our Kennebunk issue coming out. In that issue, we have actually a really smartly designed, budget conscious house. From looking at the pictures, you wouldn’t actually realize that, because it looks like a phenomenal, flat-roofed house. It looks very expensive to me. But the owners definitely had a budget, and the architects respected it, and they made this house that is just surrounded with windows. It’s two stories, and the roof is just beautiful. It’s a green roof, actually green. There’s plants growing on top of the roof. So, that’s coming up.

And then we’re doing this article on Sandy Pines, which is a campground that was actually several different campgrounds before. When I was younger, I visited the campground in one of its former ways. It doesn’t look anything like it now. It is completely gorgeous. It is well designed. Right now, they have these 12 tents, they’re doing four more. They’re called glamping tents. And so, the best of the best interior designers have each chosen a tent, and they have really made it their own. All of their design passion … Is that the word I’m trying to think of? Is integrated in there.

And they’ve also drawn what I was saying before about bringing Maine into an interior. They have done that. There’s a lot of local artists that are seen in these tents. There’s one tent that has a chandelier all made of oyster shells, which is kind of cool. It’s just something special, and I think it’s going to be a really fun read for everyone that looks at this issue.

Upcoming issues, we have some of the beautiful summer homes we think of when we think of Maine Home+Design. But what I like about our magazine is, we have those classic cottage style houses, but then we also have these modern, beautiful homes that just completely take advantage, in both ways, of the landscape. And I think there’s this synergy between the landscape and the building that I think is so unique in Maine. There’s a lot of good things in store. I don’t want to ruin it, but you guys are going to be pretty excited.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And also, The Look Book, which was one of the first things that you worked on when you came in. That’s something that is recently out, and will be available, basically, for people to, I guess, drool over.

Danielle Devine:               Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              For the foreseeable future. Tell us about The Look Book.

Danielle Devine:               So, The Look Book was one of the first things, it was one of my first tasks here at Maine Home+Design. It was so interesting for me to be able to go through the archives and pick out the best of the best. I mean, it’s great, because it divides … The Look Book essentially is, there’s an exterior section. There is a living room section. There’s a kitchen section. And there’s a bathroom section. Our goal is to show various design styles.

I just had so much fun pulling the magazines out, and flagging what I liked. Then going in to you and being like, “What do you think of these?” And going to Heidi and get everyone else’s opinion. And a lot of times, we agreed. We’re like, “This is going to make …” It really is important to show different design styles. I think we did that. And most importantly, I want someone to get it in the mail and just take it and get inspired by it, just flip through it and be like, “I think there’s a way of me incorporating this into my home.”

We all want to dream. Maybe we can’t do the renovation that we really want to do, but we can do simple changes that really make all the difference. That’s what I do right now with the two kids. I’m inspired by The Look Book. When I was putting it together, I was like, “This would actually really work well in our house, and we could make this change.” So, small changes go a long way. And I think The Look Book is really fun. It’s a fun, relaxing read.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I think that’s an important point. Sometimes it’s easy to look at these magazines, not just ours but any lifestyle type magazine and think, “That’s so far beyond what I’m capable of accomplishing or affording.” But, they’re meant to be aspirational. We’re not here at Maine Home+Design, nor really at any publication, is anyone suggesting that you can accomplish what’s on our covers necessarily.

Danielle Devine:               Exactly.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              But you can look at it and say, “Well, I like this aspect of the garden that the landscape architect has designed.” Or, “I like this interior design element that the interior designer has incorporated.” I think that’s kind of what makes all of this fun.

Danielle Devine:               Yeah, it does. It definitely does. As you look through it too, you’ll become familiar with the architects, and the designers, and the kitchen designers in the area. And I think the fascinating part I found so far is that the way that they collaborate together. They have the most respect for each other.

When I was gathering these pictures and putting down who helped design the houses, I got to learn about their relationships a little bit. I think that’s really important when you’re designing a home. And there’s a reason why these houses look good, and I think it’s because the people that work together really respect each other here, in Maine especially. That’s quite unique.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Danielle, I really appreciate your having this conversation with me. It’s been a lot of fun. That’s a word that keeps coming up for us.

Danielle Devine:               Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Let’s use it again. I’ve been speaking with Danielle Devine, who is the new managing editor for Maine Home+Design magazine. Thank you.

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Dr. Lisa B.:                              Rachel Walls is the owner of the gallery Rachel Walls Fine Art, located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. The gallery is currently exhibiting the artwork of Dahlov Ipcar. And Walls is also organizing exhibitions at the University of Cincinnati and Bates College, which will open this summer. Thanks for coming in today.

Rachel Walls:                      My pleasure.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I love this story, because it intersects so strongly with Dahlov Ipcar. And I’ve known about Dahlov for a while, and the work that she did bringing her books back to life with Dean Lunt at Islandport. For you, it’s a very personal connection.

Rachel Walls:                      Yes. I’ve known Dahlov since I was eight years old.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And she also became part of, not to jump into it, but I guess I will. You had something traumatic experiences in your life.

Rachel Walls:                      Well, I actually had a very traumatic brain injury and damage to my nervous system in a skiing accident in Jackson Hole back in 2010. I was treated in Boston at Mass General for my injuries, and then came up to Maine to recover. While I was convalescing, I was encouraged by one of my physicians to read children’s books that I had read previously, and also look at pictures of art. I was encouraged to do this because as a result of the trauma to my central nervous system, I was having a very difficult time reading and writing. In fact, I needed to learn how to read and write again.

I was advised that probably the easiest way to unlock the information that had already been collected by my brain over the years, was the actually reintroduce material that I had already been familiar with, and to reestablish the pathways for that information to function with the rest of my body in a coherent way, the way it had before my accident.

And so, I was at my parents home, and in my childhood bedroom. And had all of my first edition Dahlov Ipcar books. I was reading through those, and because I have worked in the arts and love books, I had several books, even dating back to high school and college about art in my bedroom where I was recovering. So, I looked through the pictures of those books.

And one of the things that I realized as I was going through all these books was that I had some first edition copies of Dahlov Ipcar books that were not signed. I actually was aware that she was having a book signing at the Portland Museum of Art later that month. So I did take the couple books that I had to the book signing. And then while I was there, she remembered me and asked me to stay and speak with her after the book signing. And I did, and then she invited me up to her farmhouse to visit her.

When I went up to her farmhouse, we discussed the fact that I was recovering from a traumatic brain injury, that I did not actually broadcast to a lot of people. At that point, Dahlov confided in me that she was actually losing her vision. And so, we actually began, at that point, meeting on almost a weekly, and then it would become a bi-weekly, or multiple times a week depending on the week, schedule of visits that would sometimes last a couple hours or several hours. And really, we spent a lot of that time speaking about what we were going through, because we didn’t want to speak openly about it with many other people.

That was really great, therapeutic, and bonding experience, I think for both of us. It was through that process that I shared with her one of the ideas that I had come up with during my recovery, which was actually to do an exhibition of her work, along with her parents. And that exhibition did actually happen in Boston in summer of 2015 at Samson, which is a gallery in the South End of Boston.

So unfortunately, it was during that exhibition that Tom Crotty, who had been representing Dahlov for many decades passed away somewhat unexpectedly. And so after his passing, Dahlov asked me if I would represent her. And so, it really has been an interesting journey, and one that ultimately brought me back to Maine. Because before my skiing accident, I was actually living out in Jackson Hole. I lived in Maine for the first 22 years of my life, and then moved out to Wyoming, and lived in Jackson Hole for the next 18, before coming back to Maine.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting to me that your gallery is at Fort Williams.

Rachel Walls:                      Why is that?

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Well, it’s interesting because I remember when the children’s museum was at Fort Williams, which had to be quite a few decades ago now.

Rachel Walls:                      Yes, I remember that.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yeah. And so, I remember it, and I was young, but it was this place of discovery, and learning, and piquing the imagination for me as a small child. So when you’re describing your gallery as being more than just a place where art is hung, it really goes along with that idea.

Rachel Walls:                      That’s actually part of why I chose Fort Williams. When I first came back to Maine and was looking for space, I was looking in Portland. It seemed to make sense. Portland, of course, is the center of everything cultural going on in the state. It is our biggest city. It is a cultural resource in and of itself. And there’s a lot of wonderful real estate here in downtown.

It was after the second purchase deal that I had in place did not work out, that it was actually my mother who suggested that I see if there were space available at Fort Williams. When she first suggested it to me, I immediately rejected that idea. And then it was about a month later, when I was on vacation in a hotel room waiting for my cousin to get married a few hours later to his now wife, that I had this epiphany that in fact, actually Cape Elizabeth and Fort Williams would be the perfect place. And for many of the reasons that you just said.

Fort Williams for me growing up, was a very central place. It was where we played outside. It was where we gathered as family, as friends, as schoolmates. It is a very big focal point in my life, when I think of community and friends and family. And also, adventure. The maritime history, and the military history, and the Maine history that is all right there focused on 99 acres right in Cape Elizabeth, is such a wonderful resource.

And so when I did decide that Cape Elizabeth would be a great place, I was very happy to find out that there was space available. And what it did was, I actually waited 10 months until all the space became available, and took over as much space in the old officer bachelor quarters, which is now the home of Rachel Walls Fine Art. And then, had to wait 10 months until the rest of the leases expired and I could take those over, as well.

So one of the things that has been really exciting for me is this idea that now that I’m coming back to Maine as an adult, one of the things that I have realized after being out in the world, is that the experience that I had growing up was exceptional. I appreciate very much the beauty of Maine, and have always appreciated that. But, what I don’t think I fully realized was the quality of life that we have here in Maine, and the educational opportunities that I was afforded by being a child who grew up in Maine, and even went to public schools.

When I was growing up, we had artists in residence visit my public school classrooms while I was in elementary and middle school. Dahlov Ipcar actually was one of the artists. She and Mimi Gregoire Carpenter came to my 3rd grade class and taught me and the rest of my classmates how to write and illustrate our own children’s book. And then we had performing artists and other visual artists come in over the years.

One of the things that I have really never forgotten was that when I was eight, Dahlov Ipcar, who was at the time my favorite children’s book author, because One Horse Farm was my favorite children’s book, that when she told me when I was eight years old that I was a gifted writer and I should really focus on that, that gave me the encouragement that I needed to really feel confident in my abilities as a writer. I think part of the reason that I was a published writer by the time I was 25 years old was because I was encouraged, not only by my parents and my teachers, but also someone that I really looked up to and admired as a professional in an industry that, as a child, thought I wanted to be in.

And one of the things that I am very excited to do now that I’m back in Maine, is to try and revive some of these programs that have been defunded and fallen off the radar of many here in Maine. I think it is very important to have these programs and to have this kind of outreach in our public schools, and even the private schools. And not just at the elementary school levels, but really at all levels. All ages, including adults can benefit from exposure to art and its various forms, and the creativity that comes from that exposure.

So, I really am hoping that one of the things that will be a lasting effect of the work that I’m doing is that we will be able to really demonstrate that these types of programs are beneficial, and that we need to have them back in Maine, across the state, statewide, at least in the elementary schools. But really, I would like to ultimately see at every age level, both in public and private schools.

I was very struck several years ago when I was in Manhattan having brunch with a classmate of mine from growing up in Cape Elizabeth. He is a very successful physician in Manhattan, and has had a lot of successes in his life. And when we got together, he was telling me that one of his favorite memories is from when we were in 6th grade, when Gretchen Berg made him Alexander in Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

And I was thinking to myself when he said that to me, “This is interesting. With everything that Will has accomplished, he’s going back to 6th grade and talking about the fact that he was selected by a performing artist who came into our classroom, to be the star of our class’s performance.” And that was something that really he held onto, and still talks about. And he even mentioned that he and his brothers when they get together, they talk about these experiences that we all had growing up with these artists coming in to our schools and into our lives.

And so, I think if both Will and I, as adults, can go back and pinpoint moments or events that happened as a result of programs like these that really have stayed with us and propelled us forward, that that’s something that shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, it’s something that we should really focus on, and take that information and try to enrich the lives of the future generations of Mainers.

There was two weeks ago, or three weeks ago now, the Brookings Institute released a study that the National Endowment of the Arts had conducted in Atlanta, that with at least three art educational experiences a year, elementary school students’ test scores went up drastically. And so, this is not just something that enriches the lives of people, but it literally helps enrich their minds. And so, programs like these are necessary because it really is something that enhances experiences of everyone, in terms of life and learning.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              How do you propose accomplishing this?

Rachel Walls:                      One of the things that I’ve been doing is, I’ve been working with public schools and doing a lot of outreach. This summer, Rachel Walls Fine Art was open seven days a week, eight hours a day. And we had a lot of people come in through the summer time and through the fall, that continued to be while the weather was nice, we had a lot of visitation. And then over the winter, what I’ve chosen to do is be by appointment, and to do a lot of outreach in the public schools, with me actually going there.

And then also, with them coming originally to the Portland Public Library to the exhibition that I had curated there in celebration of Dahlov’s 100th birthday, and in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Portland Public Library. And now, also continuing to bring students and also adults, I do a lot of alumni groups, and art groups, and adult living community groups, as well. But bringing these groups into Rachel Walls Fine Art and letting them experience the art and also different programs.

That’s one thing that I’m doing. I’m also doing, coming up into the spring and into the summer, an afterschool program, and also a summer program. Then the other things that I’m doing are really trying to create programs at institutions like Bates College. One of the things that will be happening this summer is that there will be an exhibition in Lewiston at the Olin Arts Center at Bates College Art Museum focusing on Dahlov. And they will have that exhibition running from June ’til October. And they will do a lot of outreach in the Lewiston Auburn area.

What I’m hoping that we can do as a result of a lot of this outreach is, really come up with some information about what works and what doesn’t. I think that will be an evolving and dynamic process. I think that with everything related to education and experience, you have to have that flexibility. I don’t know exactly how it will manifest, but I do think that a lot of the outreach and the programs that I’m doing, and a lot of the partnerships that I’m trying to do will continue to, hopefully, manifest those opportunities.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You said that you previously were more in the writing and publishing field. Now you’re clearly right in the middle of the fine arts field. How did that change?

Rachel Walls:                      Well, it hasn’t changed, actually. When I was in media and publishing, I worked for a media company called Western Interiors and Design. They had a media company that owned a magazine, but they also had brand extensions. And several of the brand extensions that they had were exhibitions and design conferences. I was the director of the Western Interiors Design and Home Show in San Francisco, the Southwest Design Conference in Santa Fe, the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming, the LA Design Conference in Los Angeles, and we had other exhibitions across the country in addition to the design exhibitions.

We also partnered with several institutions, cultural institutions and museums, and collaborated on exhibitions related to that, and also home tours. Home tours like, for instance, in Santa Fe I worked on home tours of Georgia O’Keeffe’s two residences at Abiquiu and the Ghost Ranch. So, there has actually, even with my media experience, been a lot of work with fine art. It’s really been at the intersection of fine art and design, I would say.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              How did growing up in Cape Elizabeth and your education at Bates influence you in the direction of arts and writing?

Rachel Walls:                      Well, I would say that really several things. I had very engaged and active parents that participated in a lot of my educational experiences and homework. So, that was something that was very important. And we also, I grew up in an environment where we had art in our home. We read a lot of books. We visited museums. We spend a lot of time engaging with those things. So while I was learning, those were the types of things that were incorporated in my learning.

And to that end, the public schools in Cape Elizabeth, at least while I was growing up, I don’t have children, so I’m not as aware of what parents now might say, or what students there might say, but when I was growing up, it was very focused on arts. Visual arts, performing arts, and the experience that one would have with those. And then, actually when I was in high school, I went to school in Portland, actually. That was an amazing experience for me.

Cape Elizabeth was a great environment to grow up in, but I think actually going to high school in Portland was actually even more opening for me, in terms of art and access, probably because of the foundation that I had in Cape Elizabeth. But it was really actually I would say, the liberal arts that were the thing that I was most focused on.

And one of the things that I really enjoyed about going to high school in Portland was that I was able to take Ancient Greek, Latin, French, and German. One of the things that I did while I was in high school was I read the Odyssey in Ancient Greek, and the Iliad in Latin. And we went and we looked at a lot of artifacts. Red Chaniford, who was a professor at Bowdoin at the time, also was kind of moonlighting as a high school teacher. He was fabulous at taking us to museums and having symposiums, and really kind of priming me for the experience that I would then have at Bates.

At Bates College, I had a really wonderful experience where they had just actually created a new major, which was called American Cultural Studies. I was one of the first 50 graduates of that program. One of the things that I cannot say enough about is how that interdisciplinary program really allowed me to engage with art and history in a way that I have really an understanding of cultural history and how it impacts visual art, creativity, music, dance, all of these performing arts. And really, I would say that exposure to such a liberal education and a platform at Bates where they really encouraged us to experience things that we hadn’t experienced, was very much a part of my development and my appreciation for the arts.

I had several professors there who were very instrumental in this process. But one of them was actually a music professor that I had. She taught a lot of ethno-musicology classes. But she would take us on field trips to Boston and New York and to Portland, and we would actually do interviews with artists and musicians. It was really through that process that I realized that I wanted to be a cultural historian. And I think that put me on the path that really set the trajectory for me to become involved in arts.

When I first moved to Jackson Hole after living in New York City for a while, I worked at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. That also proved to be a great foundation for me to experience something in a different way, because before moving there, I didn’t realize that wildlife art was a genre. But I do think because of the experiences I had in Cape Elizabeth, in Portland, in Lewiston, in New York before moving to Jackson Hole, really helped me understand that this was an amazing opportunity for me to expand my thinking and the way that I thought about art and subject matter and a lot of different things related to preconceptions I had about what art was, or what it could be.

So, I think that more than anything, one of the recurring threads from all my educational experiences was this idea that everything is really about perspective. And there is not one answer that is correct. It really is just what, unless you’re talking about science or math, there really is no one truth. It’s really just about perspective. I think that all of those experiences that I had educationally really reinforced that, and brought me around to this idea that we really need to be very aware of perspective and discuss that, and talk about that, and really understand how that impacts the way we perceive things, or how others perceive things, and how that really creates a bigger picture.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’ve been speaking with Rachel Walls, who is the owner of the gallery Rachel Walls Fine Art, located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing, and I wish you all the best as you continue with your hope to get arts more thoroughly integrated into the schools throughout the state of Maine. And also, I wish you all the best in your upcoming exhibits.

Rachel Walls:                      Thank you, Lisa.

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Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest, and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists, and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

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Dr. Lisa B.:                              You have been listening to Love Maine Radio. Show number 345. Our guests have included Danielle Devine and Rachel Walls. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes.

For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are privileged that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week.

This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #344: Eddie Woodin and Steve Rodrigue

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 344, airing for the first time on April 22nd, 2018. Today we speak with Eddie Woodin, the owner of Woodin & Company Store Fixtures in South Portland, and Steve Rodrigue the founder and owner of Maine Raised Gardens. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                     where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life with free advice, workshops and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the cities largest, and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists, and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details please visit our website at

Lisa Belisle:                          Eddie Woodin is the owner of Woodin & Company in South Portland. He is also a conservationist working with the Scarborough Land Trust, Maine Audubon, and Friends of Casco Bay and he helped to pass Scarborough’s pesticide ordinance last year. Thanks for coming in.

Eddie Woodin:                    Oh, pleased to be here. Thank you, Dr. Lisa.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, let’s start with talking about the pesticide ordinance, tell me a little bit about that.

Eddie Woodin:                    Well, very interesting. I’m a lifelong nature birder was sitting out in the month of June at my home in Grondin Pond near the Scarborough Marsh. When I moved to Maine, Maine was known as the mosquito capital of the world, and had eight brown bats that had been historically in the yard. All of a sudden I noticed there were no brown bats and this was in the early evening, and I had noticed earlier that there were very few insects. It really caught my attention and probably two weeks later we had a nesting box of tree swallows, and they abandoned the nest with young because there were no insects, so we’ve gone from the mosquito capital of the world to no insects. I immediately became suspicious of is the state spraying as they do in Massachusetts.

I grew up in Concord, Mass and we had screech-owls nesting in an ash tree and in the mid ’50s polio was an issue so there was an overkill. We would hear in the summer the drone of this tank trunk and seated on top was a man with a spray hose with DDT and you ran for cover. You closed the window, no warning, and it was incredible the spray that was down the middle of the road killing the Baltimore orioles, eventually killed the screech-owls, so it made an impression on me and I was aware of Silent Spring in ’62 and having been involved in the bird world so I said, “Something’s wrong.” I was at a Land Trust meeting a few months later and there was Karen D’Andrea, a birding friend of mine. I said, “Karen, there’s something wrong,” and I said, “I think we really have to look at this pesticide, herbicide issue because it’s killing everything.”

She said, “Well, that’s interesting. Let me consider.” So she got back several weeks later and she said, “I think I want to go further” because she was involved with doctors and a holistic doctor group, so in the end she agreed that she would work on an ordinance. She was on the town council. She was on the ordinance committee and six months later a mother, Marla Zando, approached … So I’m from nature, but Marla said, “Gee, I have a young son now, Karen.” She had spoken to Karen. “I’m concerned about his future and about chemicals.” So off we went and by 2011 after a year and a half work an ordinance was created that was very effective and we passed and it was terrific.

We had a great group called Citizens for a Green Scarborough and it’s a great Margaret Mead example of a committee of passionate, committed, impassioned people can change a community. We had a lot of opposition, so it was quite a battle. We did win and that was only the beginning. We had a lot of press. My concept was if we could convince the town to go organic on their municipal property including the athletic fields they were the tip of the iceberg and all the press anything written is good, press is good. It would then start to influence the homeowners and that was our goal, and we’ve converted hundreds of homeowners from there, but in the process we compiled 700 pages of documents it was amazing.

We had a dream team. We had a gentleman, Mark, who works for the EPA. Elizabeth was a lawyer. Marla’s husband was in landscape, and she had been president of the Land Trust and the list went from there. We had a very flat horizontal organization no president. We all took ownership and share and we completed and went a long way. We had opposition. I had glass vases smashed in my driveway twice, so this is very contemptuous between the chemical industry and the people. They used the landscapers as their pawns, but in the end we were successful. Brought in Casco Bay they do a great job. Cathy Ramsdell and Mary Cerullo and we were great friends talking anyway and handed off a power PAC. In the power PAC were the key documents of our 700.

Mary had been very involved anyway as the field worker, and she ran with the packet and then she started South Portland working with the folks there. I did, I spoke, and I brought the power PAC and our ordinance so it’s easy now. We just want more and more groups that might be fired up and want to commit to this and run with it. I do have all the documentation is a starter kit, so we’re still in it. Portland just passed, which was terrific. Ours was an ordinance, but Portland is a policy, which is one step higher so kudos to them and they start now to say that homeowners even can, so the pesticide herbicides are killers and organics become the key on the bird side.

The insectivore birds have dropped by 70% in population. Beyond Pesticides is one of the groups involved in that movement, and they’re saying 75% of the insect biomass has been eliminated, died, and there are so many chemicals going into the air so there’s great concern there. Six pages were written on Long Island. The lobster industry if you’re a lobsterman or you’re in the fisheries you should be very concerned and jump into this fray. It’s reported that their lobster industry collapsed because of pesticides. They were spraying malathion. The federal government, finally, the EPA there are 800 toxins and in 20 years they have thoroughly investigated three, so the chemical companies still have too much influence. The fisheries Marine Fishery group, Institute produced 3,700 pages that just recently they’ve been fighting for 10 years, and finally the government is starting to take action on malathion, but this malathion on Long Island you spray mosquitoes in whatever purposes it washed into Long Island and six different studies have been produced that it killed the lobster industry, so we need to be careful in Maine too.

Malathion back in the ’70s, oh, this is the best, this breaks down quickly. It doesn’t, so organics is the key, and then on the health side I learned a good lesson. By the way, I just want to make the comment how important the women have been in this whole chase. We developed a group, Citizens for a Green Scarborough, there were seven of us, five of them were women, and they were great writing talents and great leadership. Karen D’Andrea and Portland Avery, so the women have been really key and important in this. So I’m in Augusta, Amy Volk and Mary Nelson from Falmouth introduced the schoolyard bill because we now in Scarborough on the athletic fields you have organics, or you have abstinence. The country of France, for example, has banned Roundup.

Roundup you’re starting to see on TV class action suits for a number of blood diseases, so Susie and Johnny slide into second base, and they’re ingesting Roundup. The human aspects go beyond that, so there was a schoolyard bill in which organics … The synthetics compared to organic are the killers. They last five times longer, they’re more toxic. In the organics you actually have a number of natural things that aren’t killers, but affect well, so I went to Augusta and I testified twice. I’ll never forget it we’re sitting there for four hours. We had to wait our turn, and a woman got up she was probably late 30s, and she said, “I’m here to tell you that organics are the way to go and that these pesticides and this bill should be passed.” She said, “We have an autistic son.” She said, “My husband and I decided we would buy local organic food only and then two years later you would not know that he was autistic.” She said, “He is, but marked improvement it’s tremendous.”

Then for women there was an article in 2011 that one of the three chemicals that now is being restricted by EPA, finally, after a 10 year battle is a derivative of a poison gas from World War I in between to World War II and they use a derivative of that in the apples, et cetera, and women with a child in the womb can be ingesting particularly from fruit. If you have lead paint exposure a child could lose two to three IQ points. With the pesticides it’s seven points it’s significant, so the idea of apple juice, and a number of these other things it’s just I think important for people with youth to be careful and consider that. The list of the human things goes on.

Lisa Belisle:                          You have a large and beautiful garden that I visited a few years ago.

Eddie Woodin:                    Thank you.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s been important to you over the years not because of the plants, but also because of the birds which you love and I guess the insects. I’m not sure if you love the insects.

Eddie Woodin:                    I do their role.

Lisa Belisle:                          So tell me how you keep that going because that is often one of the concerns people have about not using chemicals is how you are able to keep everything blooming and growing and happy and not be overrun by pests?

Eddie Woodin:                    Great question. I bought a home 20 years ago. There wasn’t a blade of grass it was all sand. A former sandpit overlooking a 30 acre pond and I said, “Wow, here’s an opportunity.” I’m spiritual and I said, “I want to plant one of everything God made” which would never happen, but I wanted a great variety. In my college days I had a lawn business which I started and I did some landscaping so I had a little bit of experience and I really enjoyed it. These are living things and I recently realized that the earth has a soul, everything does. I wanted to create habitat for birds, but interestingly I wanted to plant as much as I could on two acres because of the conversion of oxygen in taking carbon dioxide out and converting. A modest lawn, for example, in a home can produce enough oxygen for a family of four on a daily basis so I had this view that if I could do spruce trees and a number of other things, coniferous trees through the winter that I’m doing my part, and the National Audubon their theme this year is do something.

Take a piece of puzzle in your home, in your property plant something, do something for nature, so it’s a great concept one-by-one, so that was my concept. So I started planting and it got bigger and bigger and birdhouses and now nesting birds and bird feeders. I decided I was going to have a successful property with nothing but water. I was not going to put fertilizer on the grass. I was not going to use pesticides or herbicides. Dandelions I embraced. I enjoy them. It’s the first natural flower for the bees the bumblebees. I’m really into honeybees, so I embraced it and clover I love clover. All the greens it mixes in it’s green, so I developed this two acre property with simply water.

My message is abstinence. You don’t need the chemicals. If you work on your health and you take probiotics you take this little capsule and this is like 20 billion probiotics it’s like, wow, this is really mind-boggling. Well, your lawn is the same thing the microbes billions and billions and those are those you can’t see them living organisms that then build on a chain as the organisms become more sophisticated. When you stop all the chemicals they come back to life, and then there’s a wonderful ecosystem within that lawn and within your property that is self-maintaining.

I have garden beds, perennials. I use dehydrated compost and that’s it. That’s the only enhancement on the property. It’s a successful great property. We’re going to have an open house. If you are listening and you’re interested in abstinence and how to have a lawn where you’re not using the chemicals July 28 of ’18 we’re having an open house. We have hundreds of people. We’ve had 600 people at a time from 10 to two p.m. We will run ads, but everyone’s invited if you really want to see it. All you need is water. Just say no, abstinence is the key.

Lisa Belisle:                          You also have dogs. How do they react to your property?

Eddie Woodin:                    Well, that is a great question. We had a set of labs, chocolate labs, and back in 2011 there were some indigenous weeds in our 30 acre pond and two neighbors took it upon themselves to put 2,4-D herbicide which was Agent Orange the mainstay in the water pellets and the puppies got into the pond. I didn’t know what it was and I went in and pulled them out and then my skin started itching greatly so we got a hold of the state. They came down it was 2,4-D and on, believe it or not, 9/11 that very day these two were before the assistant attorney general for having broken the law and had to pay a fine. 2,4-D is that toxic and serious to the state. So the puppies were exposed and we decided not to breed because of that because it can create a lot of lymphomas, et cetera. So they did live a long life, but of course, they died of blood issues, which probably came from the 2,4-D.

Scottie dogs when you lay down your chemicals on your lawn Scottie dogs, for example, have seven times the liver cancer of normal dogs because they’re low to the ground and their hair is brushing. I mean, it’s an unseen thing and it’s time for people not to ignore it. 63% of all households have 2,4-D in it. It’s tracked in whether it’s from their property or not. We ran some ads we have a great marketing machine. I’m a marketing guy with CGS and ran some ads and one of them was of a little baby crawling on the lawn and it’s like how can you do this? I have two sons and it’s like how can you do this?

I just read another article out of the 700 pages where chemicals were applied on the lawn and shortly, thereafter, 15% of the children had ingested in their lungs the chemicals. MIT in ’14, ’15 and ’16 wrote articles regarding pesticides, herbicides and autism. Having listened to this lady in Augusta they were forced to withdraw them. I’m not sure what the science was or wasn’t, but they’re very bright people and I’m just concerned that this exposure is detrimental to kids particularly younger ones, and the athletic fields as well, just say no.

Lisa Belisle:                          Did you see the birds come back once you had started to create a natural habitat for them without chemicals?

Eddie Woodin:                    I did, and the birds, the robins when this whole thing started on night I’m thinking I thought of a robin eating a worm from the soil and I’m thinking, “What’s in that worm? It’s ingesting all this stuff.” That was a driving point for me and it’s rewarding now. We have robins galore feeding on the worms. We have worms galore that’s the other thing, I mean, we’ve always been natural, but the number of worms. Now I’m so proud when I drive by our baseball field up at the high school the herring gulls are there and they’re feeding on the worms and other organisms because everything isn’t being killed. I’ve seen the birds come back and I think the population is still on the decline, but I’ve had good success. However, the butterflies have declined and properly one of the big canaries in the mine for me are the moths.

If you go out at night if you have a garden it’s fun in perennials and I’ll go out with a flashlight at night around nine p.m. in the summer and you’re going to see a whole new living group flying around and pollinating at night. Those numbers are just down significantly so it’s a real issue. These pesticides, herbicides, honeybees, all the pollinators, boy, we need to wake up and just say no, so that’s a big concern. Monarchs did come back a little bit, but I’m creating a new Monarch garden, new concept. You take swamp milkweed, butterfly weed and I’m working with Broadway Gardens, Phil Roberts, the owner to bring in common milkweed. When you try and pull it from the side of the road the roots don’t fully develop, but it’s grown commercially so I cut two new beds in the lawn not much grass left now, and going to use those three items for Monarchs. We had great success last year with Monarchs and the swamp milkweed. We can all take a piece of the puzzle and create even if it’s one swamp milkweed you’re helping nature. You’re helping pollinators and that’s my current theme.

Lisa Belisle:                          So in addition to your swamp milkweed what is maybe the most important thing that you would suggest to someone who is trying to have a nice lawn but do it without the use of pesticides or herbicides?

Eddie Woodin:                    Boy, great question. I like the idea of a green lawn which is green because of nature and water. The dandelions I dig some of them, but they’re great for nature so plantings. I have over 260 species of trees, shrubs, et cetera. I think a combination and then perennial flowers and, of course, the crocuses, et cetera, but have fun with it. I mean, empower yourself and enjoy nature and we start with the crocuses. It’s like, oh, man, they’re coming up through that ice how can this be? Then there’s a process we actually have blooming flowering from April into October, but I think the shrubs in particular have great beauty.

We have coniferous trees and oak trees and a number of trees, but then you layer down and build a perimeter, if you will, but rhododendrons are beautiful the PJMs which are in the Rhodo family. Those are those pink ones that you see on all the commercial properties they come in early. Azaleas will work here and Boxwood. I’m out feeding the birds very icy right now, but here are these Boxwood plants that look so frail, but they’re pure green against the contrast and living things they’re a great item.

So my method was to go to Broadway Gardens and O’Donal’s. O’Donal’s, by the way, is all organic. A number of hardware stores will not sell synthetics anymore. There’s a real move and a real change. Eldredge Lumber, kudos to all of them. We the consumer drive that bus so ask for it, but I’d hang out. I go over I see Phil and I spend like an hour walking around saying, “Wow, this is great,” and then fill the car with perennials. It’s great fun. Go take a look. See what is in your pallet and what you like and crocosmia. We have open houses that we’ve had now for 15 years the favorite of everyone is the perennial called crocosmia. It’s a like a bird of paradise with red. Hummingbirds love it. So if you’re looking for some fun in April, May go to the nursery and look for crocosmia. I think it’s the most appreciated aesthetically from my experience so go find some crocosmia, plant one, enjoy it.

Lisa Belisle:                          It sounds like what you’re suggesting is to really focus on the reason why one would want to have a pesticide free lawn and home and do it by really engaging with nature and saying here’s some beautiful flowers, here’s some beautiful shrubs, and making this and the health of your children and the health of your pets the reason for doing it rather than having it be entirely sort of against.

Eddie Woodin:                    Absolutely, that’s a key point. It’s really interesting, I’m spiritual and born in ’88. I have a historic bird art collection, so I go to the Peabody Museum in Massachusetts there was an interest and we were discussing, so we went into the nature area and Eskimo curlew in their case and they have some good things. I thought, “I don’t know this is a little strange.” It was more geared for children than it was in my art collection type of thing so I’m embracing it and a gentleman had a display on trees. They had different activities for children regarding wood and trees and here was this main placard of information and it said, “Come and listen to the voice of the sound of the tree.”

I’m going, “No way, come on.” So Jerry a great nature friend a worldwide great warrior, so we go and we listen to this thing and it was like it just was pretty mind-boggling. It was this high-pitched, not eerie, but sound that was incredible. So I digest that and then I realized nature has a soul, the earth has a soul, living things have a soul. You think of it as dirt and this thing, no, it’s a living thing with soul. You see it through Psalms especially in the Bible, so I embrace nature as an appreciation for what it is, but also to inspire me to keep going and to be charged up and going and I think our soul it’s soothing to the soul and sitting out there in the evenings and seeing the leaves rustling and the birds and nature and the bats it’s enriching for the soul.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking to Eddie Woodin who is the owner of Woodin & Company in South Portland who is also a conservationist working with the Scarborough Land Trust, Maine Audubon and Friends of Casco Bay. Eddie helped pass Scarborough’s pesticide ordinance recently. Thank you so much for coming in.

Eddie Woodin:                    Thank you, pleasure, nice to see you, thank you.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port where everybody is seen as a work of art, and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Lisa Belisle:                          Steve Rodrigue is the owner and founder of Maine Raised Gardens, a full-service vegetable garden company. He previously worked at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Thanks for coming in today.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Thank you.

Lisa Belisle:                          I love this topic. I think more and more people are doing gardening in the state of Maine. I think it’s coming back again. We always did it. It’s coming back again, and the idea of raised gardens kind of creates a little bit more ease of use I think.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, I started off the idea of just doing raised beds the first year. This coming year I will be offering in-ground gardens as well. I realize that raised gardens aren’t for everybody, so I want to target everybody.

Lisa Belisle:                          You grew up here in Augusta.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          You have kind of an interesting background not everybody goes into horticulture.

Steve Rodrigue:                  No, let’s see where do I start? I think first off I’d say what kind of got me into I was first interested in trees. I thought I’d go to school for forestry and I can recall as a young child working with my dad and my grandfather doing firewood and both of them teaching me the different trees just from looking at the bark and sometimes even the smell. Then from there I remember one time actually being sick with a flu and after a few days of laying in bed, and I finally was up and my mother brought me to Longfellow’s Greenhouses, which I later did an internship during college. I just remember being around the plants and feeling really, really happy and healthy and uplifted. Then later on I worked for the City of Augusta planting trees and gardens around the city, and I worked with a man named Larry who had actually gone to school for landscape design. That’s when I finally realized that it wasn’t just a hobby I could actually go to school for this and here I am now.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s interesting I didn’t realize that you could actually tell different trees by what they smell like.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, some have distinctive smells, specifically, cherry you can smell the wood it has a slight smell of cherry. I even say that red oak kind of smells like ketchup, which I don’t know if everybody agrees with me on that.

Lisa Belisle:                          It sounds like this is the kind of thing that people know about, but it’s not necessarily common knowledge.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Right, yeah, I would say that for sure. I wouldn’t say there’s not a lot of people that have wood stoves in Maine, I mean, there are a lot, but at the same time there’s a lot of people that don’t rely on wood stoves. I remember we had a wood stove ever since my whole life actually.

Lisa Belisle:                          So that’s how you became involved with the smelling of the wood is it when things actually burn that you can smell this or is it when they’re being cut or?

Steve Rodrigue:                  It’s when you’re stacking it, when you’re splitting it, when you’re cutting it, all the above.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’m interested, also, in this idea that you were not feeling well and your mom brought you to a place that had plants and somehow it kind of energized you. Is this something that you’ve noticed throughout your life?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, I mean, seeing green plants is uplifting I think to anybody whether they realize it or not.

Lisa Belisle:                          Maine Raised Gardens you’ve been doing this for the past year and the pamphlet that I have says that this is perfect for restaurants, inns, bed and breakfast, cafes, schools, assisted living and elderly care, community gardens, business parks, and anyone who needs just a little help. Do you find that people are responsive to this business?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, the first year, actually, most of my business was in the residential sector so had a lot of homeowners that actually wanted gardens at their house. Some just for themselves, some for their whole family, some for the kids. In reality, I think it’s a great fit for anybody because we all have to eat, right?

Lisa Belisle:                          Are more and more people asking you to do gardens for them for the eating or for just the enjoyment of the gardening itself?

Steve Rodrigue:                  I would say it’s both I guess, I mean, the end result is going to be eating, right? Because I’m just doing just edible gardens. I’m trying to differentiate from a regular landscape company that does ornamentals that’s where I first started and then I started working at Johnny’s to get more into edibles and vegetables and what-not so now that’s what I’m just targeting that’s trying to be very specific.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me about your time at Johnny’s.

Steve Rodrigue:                  So I worked there for nearly six years as a vegetable research technician. My job was I was responsible for about a half a dozen crops, and I would solicit from different companies seed varieties working with different breeding companies throughout the world get the seeds back, design the trials, do the evaluations, and then ultimately pick and choose what went into our 200 plus page catalog.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you say design the trials you mean plant the seeds and see what happens or?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, we had a farm crew that would seed them in the greenhouse, and I was there to monitor germination and then we would have them planted out in the field. Then I would monitor them throughout the season make sure that they were getting the care that they needed, and then I would look at a wide range of criteria for those crops.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are the types of criteria that you used to determine whether they would be a good fit for the catalog?

Steve Rodrigue:                  It really differs from crop to crop, but some of the specifics we would look for disease, we would look for how long something would hold in the field. There’s a couple ideas of what we would look at. Flavor, that was really big. We would do taste trials so sometimes my carrot trial, or one of my crops. There might be 70 plus varieties and I’d have to go through and taste test.

Lisa Belisle:                          Wow, so trying to determine out of 70 types of carrots which one was the tastiest that’s quite something.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yes. I didn’t have to taste all 75 because there were some that you would select out they weren’t uniform enough or they had bolted and gone to seed before they even produced a root so there were some eliminating factors in the beginning which made it a little bit easier but, yes, definitely, a tricky thing.

Lisa Belisle:                          Where did you get these seeds from?

Steve Rodrigue:                  They’re from companies throughout the world all over the world, so different breeding companies.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do they contact Johnny’s and say, hey, we have these seeds, or do you somehow find out about them?

Steve Rodrigue:                  There was some of that and also Johnny’s has been around they just had their 40 year anniversary just a few years ago so they had worked with a lot of these companies over those 40 years so they developed relations with them.

Lisa Belisle:                          What have you found to be your favorite edibles?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Let’s see here, yeah, that’s tricky. I think one crop that I think is very interesting is chicory. That’s the world of radicchio, Belgian endive, escarole. It’s a crop that nobody, I shouldn’t say nobody, but a lot of people don’t know about. It’s not very popular it the U.S. I think it’s getting there. I remember when I was applying to Johnny’s I was reading a book on root cellaring and one of the crops in there was Belgian endive. You grow the chicory outside, dig the roots up in the fall, and then you actually plant them inside through the winter and then you force them into the chicons. I thought, “Wow, that’s really neat I’d like to grow that some day.” Never knew if I’d really get around to it. Then I got the job at Johnny’s about a month later, and that was one of my crops and that same year I was growing Belgian endive under the counters in the dark. You have to grow it in the dark because you want to exclude the sunlight.

Lisa Belisle:                          Why isn’t that a popular food here in the United States?

Steve Rodrigue:                  I think mostly because it’s a bitter green and that’s kind of not really something that most Americans like is bitterness, although, they don’t realize it, but they do because they like coffee and they like IPA beer, right?

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I have noticed that more and more people are aware of things like dandelion roots and dandelion leaves and other types of bitters. There are more people it seems to be this is more of a thing.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, I think things are becoming more popular it’s what’s the next best thing? I mean years ago Brussels sprouts and cabbage that was what peasants ate, and now that’s like the number one thing sometimes in restaurants so we’re getting kind of bored with some of our regular things that we’ve eaten over the years and now it’s, yeah, what’s the next newest thing.

Lisa Belisle:                          Does that same sort of idea occur in horticulture where people get a little bored of the plants that they’re growing and they think, “Oh, I want to try something different.”

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, each year there’s new varieties coming out both in the ornamental and the edible industry, if you will. Yeah, it’s just let’s get rid of the old stuff and let’s come in with the new stuff.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are some of the things that are on the horizon right now?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Really in the breeding industry, well, in the seed industry the breeding aspect is huge. There’s companies that have multi-million dollar breeding departments that are just working towards coming out with new varieties. Some of that is to combat disease issues that these varieties are seeing. There’s also cold hardiness that’s something people are looking at. Yeah, there’s a whole slew of reasons why these breeding companies are coming out with new varieties.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you study horticulture and you got your degree at the University of Maine what are the types of courses that you go through in order to get that degree?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, a lot of plant classes. I took a lot of woody ID, herbaceous ID those were some of my favorite classes. There’s soil science, and then I was in the design concentration so a lot of design classes where I was actually hand drawing doing residential designs.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you say design you mean designing what a landscape might look like?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yes, exactly.

Lisa Belisle:                          So this has come in handy then as you’ve moved into your own company.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, I think it’s kind of combining all of my interests into one. I really like building. I like hands-on. I love food. I want to grow my own food. I’ve kind of been working on that over the past few years. Long ways to go still. Yeah, so it’s combining all of my … It’s combing design, it’s combining construction, hands-on, food all into one.

Lisa Belisle:                          If I was a residential customer and contacted you is that something that you start the process in the spring and start having conversations about what that might look like and then you actually get into the sowing of the seeds in I don’t know May, something like that?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Ideally, we’d have the conversation in the winter. I think a lot of people start to think about gardening kind of towards the tail of winter as spring’s approaching, so in reality we can talk about it anytime, but ideally it would be in the winter.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me what that process looks like. Somebody finds out about Maine Raised Gardens and says, yeah, I want to do this and they get in touch with you and where do you go from there?

Steve Rodrigue:                  I set up a consultation. I do free consultations and then I meet with a customer. I look at where their ideas are or where they want the gardens, and really try to nail down their goals and expectations. What do they want to do? Do they want to grow all their own food? Do they want to be able to serve salads to their guests that come to their house all summer long? Really narrow that down so that I can give them exactly what they’re looking for.

Lisa Belisle:                          What do people tend to want you to grow for them? Is it more like I want to have some tomatoes and basil so I can have pesto or?

Steve Rodrigue:                  It really depends on the customer. I get all kinds of things, I mean, I get some of that. Sometimes, customers they say, “I don’t know. I don’t care just plant whatever.” Yeah, so it really, really varies. I’ve talked to some restaurant owners that are maybe just interested in growing some herbs like garnishes for their cocktails in their restaurant they could be as simple as that, or it could be a lot more elaborate than that too.

Lisa Belisle:                          So somebody says, all right, Steve, I’m going to have you come to my house and I’m going to let you do whatever you want. What do you suggest as far as the types of foods that you would plant?

Steve Rodrigue:                  First, it depends on how big the garden is going to be. Do they want one bed? Do they want three beds? Do they want six beds? It really depends. I would try to really narrow down at least what they like to eat I would ask them what do you really like and what do you really not like? A lot of people know what they don’t want. They might not always necessarily know what they do want, though.

Lisa Belisle:                          So if somebody said, okay, so I don’t want onions let’s say, but I do like broccoli and cauliflower. Are you able to balance out different things so that they’re not just getting broccoli and cauliflower?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, and there’s always different techniques, too, such as like succession plantings, so instead of planting a whole bed of broccoli I can plant a row of it and then plant a row of it a week later so then they’re getting a harvest at multiple times throughout the season to stagger it out.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you also try to grow plants together that seem to be symbiotic?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, that’s a whole other world. It’s an interesting idea. I haven’t done that yet. I need to look into that more. There are things where you don’t plant all the same crops together and that’s for pest and disease issues.

Lisa Belisle:                          What about some of the soil issues because some plants I would think would offer different nutrients back into the soil than others?

Steve Rodrigue:                  That’s another thing I need to look into. There’s definitely something to that, but I don’t think it shouldn’t hinder somebody from trying gardening. You’re going to succeed, you’re going fail. It’s just you have to try different things each year.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are some of the plants that you had a lot of success with last year for your residential customers?

Steve Rodrigue:                  I’d say lettuce was a really good one, and I think it also comes down to watering, too. If you water correctly plants will, you know, they’ll thrive. A lot of times people tend to overwater, or they water too frequently, and really the idea is you want to water infrequently, but deeply so then you get those roots established, you get the roots deep, and then the plants will be a little bit more resilient, but I would say lettuce and another one was pumpkins. I had one customer they grew just a few pumpkin plants in one of the beds that I installed for them and they had produced 18 pumpkins out of that one bed. I was pretty amazed at that.

Lisa Belisle:                          Does that have anything to do with where they live, where their gardens are located?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Potentially. It was in a full sun area. They had a good soil and compost mix that I had brought in. They had one of their little boys attended it everyday watering it I think it got a lot of care.

Lisa Belisle:                          If you come in and you notice that somebody does not have good soil is that how you deal with it is to bring in some soil yourself or bring in compost for them to use?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, I recommend raised beds if you have really poor soil. You can amend soil that’s in the ground it just might take a little bit longer to really get that garden going, and I think to get people really engaged it’s nice to have kind of a good impact the first year and make them want to the next year but, yeah, there’s ways around it. You just have to kind of think outside of the box no pun intended.

Lisa Belisle:                          If somebody comes along and says I would like to have this garden in the ground here near my house, and you notice that the soil is just not going to be that great for that particular year will you help them amend that soil and maybe suggest a raised bed?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, that’s part of the consultation phase, so if somebody if they say I want a garden in-ground here part of my job is to start digging around seeing how that soil is, feeling it for texture, even smelling it. There’s a lot of different things you can do to really see how that soil is there, and then the education comes in where you may have to kind of sway the customer one way, but ultimately it is their choice in the end.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you notice a lot of difference between people who are trying to put gardens in on the coast versus more inland?

Steve Rodrigue:                  That’s a good question. I did install a few gardens down in let’s see down in Lincolnville this year and I did one in Rockland, but most of my work this summer was actually more inland. I did a big job in Jefferson which I was not expecting that. I’ve got some pretty neat photos on that that will be displayed on my website along with some of the other works I’ve done. That’s what I was expecting, but it wasn’t necessarily the case this year.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you’re working on the coast versus inland are there different things that you have to think about for your clients?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Not too much. I’d say there’s probably less frost on the coast or the frost is usually later in the season so there’s just kind of some minor like microclimate issues that I’d have to … I shouldn’t say issues, but microclimate challenges and opportunities I should say that I have to be aware of.

Lisa Belisle:                          Speaking of challenges and opportunities what have you noticed in your own life as you’ve decided what path you wanted to travel with regard to your career?

Steve Rodrigue:                  The biggest thing has been the first year when I would get maybe a little slow with work I would pick up a little side job and then all of a sudden I’d get really busy again with my work so that was kind of tricky trying to balance that so I think it’s basically just a work-life balance which can kind of be tricky. This year I plan on just working for myself having a few little side projects that I’ll work on. I grow pea shoots on the side I’ve done that in the past so I think I’ll do that this year, so then if I need to slow down with one thing I can because it will be my own thing rather than an obligation working for somebody else.

Lisa Belisle:                          So having I guess a little more faith in the process with regard to your own business and your own clients?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, there’s no doubt in my mind that this year is going to be better than last year and the year after that is going to be even better than this year, so I just have to buckle down and go for it.

Lisa Belisle:                          What types of things are you hearing about in your industry with regard to gardening?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, when I first started in horticulture I think it was still more of an ornamental basis. There wasn’t a whole lot being done with like environmentally friendly gardening companies. There was still a lot of pesticides being used. I think the movement is more towards environmentally sound use of more natives less pesticides all that, but I still think we have a lot of work to do in the landscape and gardening industry to change that. I think going forward you’re going to see more of that. You can see more of it in the news, people talking about it, consumers are more aware of it, so I think things will improve.

Lisa Belisle:                          We’ve had several referendums down in this neck of the woods and perhaps you’ve also had it up where you live that have to do with residential pesticide application. I’m a big fan of not using pesticides whenever possible, but there’s still then you end up with pests so how do you deal with that type of thing naturally?

Steve Rodrigue:                  There’s a number of ways. Sometimes, it can be just the timing of when you plant something. I really like the method of exclusion. For instance, flea beetles they love brassicas they put little holes in brassica leaves and also cabbage moths you can take a row fabric and you cover those crops until they’re ready to harvest and it excludes the insects, so no pesticides.

Lisa Belisle:                          So there are tricks that are out there that you could use if you wanted to have a garden not using pesticides.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, and I think that’s one of the biggest advantages of having a small garden. You can really manage it. You can take care of it. It’s harder on a farm scale, but on a smaller scale it’s definitely doable. Gardens I’ve had for the past 10, 12 years I’ve never used a pesticide on any of them.

Lisa Belisle:                          How about weeds what about herbicides and use of chemicals for weeds?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Well, I think weeds are kind of like there’s a saying a weed is just a plant that maybe you don’t know what it is yet or you don’t have a purpose for it. It’s kind of like dirt and soil. Soil is outside and dirt is underneath your fingernails and in the corner of your kitchen floor or something, so a lot of these plants that we call weeds, actually, have a lot of uses. For instance, you mentioned the dandelion greens. You can use both the greens and the root. I think we have to change kind of our viewpoint on some of these topics that have been ingrained in our mind since children from our grandparents and what-not. I think in a small garden there’s ways around that too. There’s mulching. A small garden is easier to tend to. Raised beds are great because the soil is not compacted. You’re never walking on it so it’s really easy to weed. I think weeds are one of the things I worry about the least, actually.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you ever have clients ask you about things like GMOs?

Steve Rodrigue:                  No, I haven’t yet, but I definitely know I will. It first started off know your farmer. Then where’s our food coming from, and now it’s even getting deeper than that where do our seeds come from? You see that some seed companies are being more and more transparent where their seeds are being bred, where they’re coming from so I think I’ll definitely have that question.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you do plantings do you try to avoid seeds that you know have genetically modified organisms?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, that’s one of my goals, too. I shouldn’t say goals that’s just what I’m going to be doing, no GMOs. I also want to be really picky about where my seeds are coming from like the companies that are breeding them so there’s kind of behind the scenes with that as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          What about compost?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Compost, yeah, I’ve used some of Coast of Maine I’ve used that. I’ve used a couple different sources. I also have a friend that does his own composting. He uses leaves and grass clippings, and he’s also using a byproduct seaweed. He actually has a mussel farm in Maine so he’s putting that in the compost as well so I have some pretty good sources for compost.

Lisa Belisle:                          So if somebody needed you to provide compost you’d already have it available to use on their beds?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, just a call away.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are you noticing about restaurants and the types of herbs that they want you to grow what types of things are they asking about?

Steve Rodrigue:                  I haven’t had a lot of work with restaurants yet. I’ve been meeting with some and talking with them. They’re definitely, definitely interested. I think this year there will be more of the commercial side than last year which was more residential business for me, but I think it will be mostly things that they use on a regular basis probably some of the more common ones, but maybe some herbs that they can’t get at the grocery store or from the farmers’ market.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you think that in general people are more aware about herbs and their use for cooking?

Steve Rodrigue:                  I think so, yeah, I definitely think so.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are some of your favorite herbs to use and you said that you like to cook so what do you like to cook?

Steve Rodrigue:                  My favorite herbs to start with sage I love sage. I love rosemary. I love thyme, so I guess some of the more common ones, but those are kind of my go-tos I would say.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do those find your way into your cooking?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Yeah, sometimes, I might not pair the herbs with the correct dish I just kind of mix them in, but it works the end result is great.

Lisa Belisle:                          Are you growing things year-round you talked about some of the lettuces that you had worked on in the past?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Let’s see where do I start with that? One of my focuses actually at Johnny’s was winter growing, and I was fascinated with growing through the winter in unheated passive tunnels so there’s no electricity, nothing, I would go out and manually roll up the sides, everything, and I was amazed at what you could grow late into the season. I was growing stuff into Christmastime. Some things into January and this was all with no heat whatsoever. Spinach, chicory, even parsley and cilantro can make it through the winter. I think a lot of people don’t realize that. A lot of people ask me what are you going to do in the winter and there’s a lot of work that can be done in the winter as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          What about growing things inside do you have clients that start growing things inside that they can then put into their gardens when the spring comes?

Steve Rodrigue:                  I would imagine I will have that. I haven’t encountered that yet, though.

Lisa Belisle:                          Where would you like to see your business go over the next five years?

Steve Rodrigue:                  Good question, yeah. Really I’d like to, I mean, I want to tap into the commercial market. I think it will really take off with restaurants and bed and breakfasts and inns, so I really want that. I want to develop an education portion to my business where we can go into schools. We can educate children. If a residential customer wants us to come there and do an hour long session every month or every two weeks with them and their family, their kids we can do that. I have a lot of ideas for the next five years. I’m trying to stay focused right now with the few ideas and a few different options than just each year kind of coming out with new options to keep people engaged.

This coming year you’ll see I’ll offer mushroom logs that I actually do right at my house. They’ll be oysters this year. Also, onsite and offsite composting. Potentially, even donations to food banks when a garden is producing way too much and the people can’t keep up with it I can do a donation in their name to local food banks. I have a lot of ideas, but trying to stay focused and not weigh myself down too much with too many different options.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking with Steve Rodrigue who is the owner and founder of Maine Raised Gardens a full-service vegetable garden company. He previously worked at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I’m really glad that you took the time to come in and talk with me today.

Steve Rodrigue:                  Great, thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 344. Our guests have included Eddie Woodin and Steve Rodrigue. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our E-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #343: Jennifer Hutchins and Evelyn King

Speaker 1:            You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle. Recorded at the studio’s of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available of

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 343 airing for the first time on April 15, 2018. Today we speak with Jennifer Hutchins, the Executive Director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits, and fly fisher Evelyn King, who is a founding director of the Sebago Trout Unlimited Women’s Fly fishing Group. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                    , where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life. For free advice, workshops and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area. Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio.

Portland Art Gallery is the cities largest, and is located in the heart of the old port, 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists, and hosts a series of monthly shows in its newly expanded space, including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Jennifer Hutchins became the Executive Director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits in July 2016 where she leads a member network of more than 900 charitable nonprofits and 150 private partners. Prior to joining the Maine Association of Nonprofits, she led the city of Portland’s efforts to strengthen the creative economy as Executive Director of Creative Portland. Thanks for coming in today.

Jennifer H.:                            Thank you.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve actually had a foot in all kinds of different sectors, you’ve got some public policy experience, you’ve got some creative sector experience. Now you’re doing nonprofits, what was your original thinking on how your life would unfold when you were say a senior in high school, did it look like this?

Jennifer H.:                            Well, that’s a great question. I was just talking to some young people the other day about my path. I actually, when I first graduated from high school, I wanted to go into international banking. This was back in the day when Melanie Griffith was defining what it looked like to be a working girl, and so I pictured myself with the big hair and the big shoulder pads and the high heels going down the boulevards of Paris and London, and that’s what I thought I wanted to do.

I went to college and that’s where I discovered more deeply what my real values were, and where I still had high aspirations for doing a lot of international travel and getting to know a lot of different types of people and a lot of different types of cultures. I realized that it wasn’t in the private sector that I really wanted to have impact, and so I have spent time internationally, and I’ve spent time in some of our larger cities in the United States.

Ultimately however, I determined that living in a place like Maine provides an opportunity to have a greater impact in my community.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You originally came to Maine as a child of Navy parents.

Jennifer H.:                            Right, yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You moved here because I believe it was your father that was stationed at the Naval Air base at the time?

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, my father is a retired Navy pilot, and had spent some time stationed at Brunswick Naval Air Station. They really liked it, and so when he got out of the military, he was still young enough to fly commercially. They chose to move to Maine from Southern California, so that was quite a change for my teenage older brothers and myself, and just getting ready to go into middle school.

I remember moving here in the dead of winter from Southern California and coming home from school and saying to my mom, “They’re wearing boots with chains on the bottom.” The famous L.L. Bean boot, which I still have that pair of boots, and I’m quite proud of today, because I’m not wearing any of the fancy new ones, mine are old school. When I first moved here as a young kid, I really questioned the style choice of those L.L. Bean boots, but I quickly grew to love living in Brunswick, and I eventually graduated from high school in Brunswick, Maine.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you’ve had, you’ve had the chance to live in other places. You obviously could, you could still be in DC, you could go back to Southern California. You could go somewhere international and be Melanie Griffith presumably.

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, I guess.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You still are here, what’s kept you here?

Jennifer H.:                            Well, first and foremost family. When I moved back to Portland having lived abroad and lived in bigger cities, at first I didn’t want to stay. This was 20 years ago when Portland wasn’t quite as hot. I was in my 20s, and it seemed like everybody lived out West, and there were the big cities out West that were really drawing people at that time. For the first couple of years I really resisted staying in Maine for too long, and then I was taking a photography class at Maine College of Art, and I was having a conversation with the instructor.

She said to me, “You know Jen, if you go to New York or Boston and you try to be a photographer, you’re going to be one in a sea of people.” She said, “If you stay here, you actually might have a shot at making a niche for yourself.” Now I ended up choosing to get my Masters degree at the University of Southern Maine and staying here, and so my niche ended up being policy and community development, public policy and community development.

The same remained … It was the same case, I would meet with professors and they would say, “That’s a really great question, why don’t we find a time when we can meet with one of the Governors policy advisors?” or, “Why don’t you give this CEO a call?” It was amazing how the access to decision-makers and people who wanted to make a difference was just 1° or 2° of separation, whereas I knew that if I moved back to Washington DC, or I started a new career in New York or elsewhere, it would just be so much more complicated to really feel like I could connect with people who were making a difference.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What was it about the creative economy that kept you working as the Executive Director of Creative Portland for so long?

Jennifer H.:                            My early career had started in advocacy for arts and culture. I worked for an organization in Washington DC called People for the American Way, which was a First Amendment organization, and I did research into challenges to creative expression. It was founded by the TV producer Norman Lear, who was concerned about the impact that the religious right was having on the media waves. He started his own watchdog organization that was just tracking how that movement was impacting the media.

I became very familiar with the national endowment for the arts, and the back then challenges to the national endowment for the arts around artistic expression. I also come from a long line of musicians and actors, and so the arts and culture just from my family’s perspective were very important to me. Then I also had spent, after college spent two years in Europe and saw how the Europeans embed arts and culture into their daily lives.

It’s not considered something like entertainment that you do when you have an extra few dollars, it’s embedded in everything that they do. I became very passionate about advocating for the arts, and so I built on that interest in arts and culture with my public-policy skills. Then the creative economy work really came out of some of those attacks to artistic expression in the early 90s as a way for people to understand the importance of arts and culture in our lives beyond just the entertainment value.

I really became very interested in how the creative economy, economic development work really was integrating and developing a whole new case for why we need arts and culture in our communities.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What did you learn? What were some of the lessons? Why do we need arts and culture in our communities?

Jennifer H.:                            Well, I firmly believe that Portland wouldn’t be Portland without all of those arts and cultural institutions. I think that when you go out now and you ask people about Portland, certainly they list restaurants is right at the top of the list, and some include restaurants as part of the creative economy at this point for sure. Even deeper than that, I really believe that people respond to the ethos, the Zeitgeist of the community, and I firmly believe that the history of Portland has been shaped so much by cultural institutions that have been here for decades.

Then more recently, some of our institutions that are about 30 years old, the Portland Stage Company and some of these other institutions, Maine College of Art, and the Museum of course have been here longer than that. Then in the 70s there was another wave of cultural institutions, and I think no one can deny that it’s what really makes a true impact of what the community is. I think the other thing that I learned that was really interesting in some of the research that we did, is sometimes you think of the creative economy as only impacting urban areas.

What was interesting to learn, was to go to other more remote parts of Maine and realize that there is an activity and a vibrancy to community that is magnetized by creative activity. Again, even in some of our smaller communities where it might be harder to find a cluster of activity if you will, there’s really demonstrated value in people who want to be there, and who are creative people just doing great things. Then as a result, economic activity comes with that.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              As you’re talking, I’m thinking about the Stone Mountain Arts Center out in Brownfield, which I mean that’s a perfect example of something that grew out of Carol Noonan’s love of music, and seems like it’s plopped down in the middle of nowhere, but it has been so accepted and loved, by not only the local community, but also the greater community.

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, that’s an excellent example, another really favorite example of mine is the Stonington Opera House, and what I really love about the Stonington Opera House and I think Stone Mountain’s very similar, is that if you initially go to Stonington, you see a very, very traditional fishing village really. Not at all like a more developed community like Boothbay Harbor, or Camden, but very much still a fishing village, a working village.

You might at first think that plunking, or renovating an old community center and opera house into an art center that does Shakespeare and plays and movies and community events, that they might have a hard time integrating. Really to the contrary, the people who founded that organization and who maintain it have really done an exceptional job. I feel like I know a little bit of what I’m talking about, because I married a man whose family is from Deer Isle, Stonington.

The Weed’s and the Eaton’s worthy were the early European settlers of Deer Isle, and so my husband’s family are still fishermen in that community. When we visit Stonington and we talk with people who have been living there for many years, families who have been living there for decades, they only speak very highly of the Opera House, and they refer to going to events there. Again, I think Stonington wouldn’t look the way it is without the Opera House, and they’ve done a phenomenal job in my opinion of integrating themselves with people who’ve been there longer than they have.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Music is a particular interest of yours, and you have an affiliation with MAMM.

Jennifer H.:                            That’s right, Maine Academy of Modern Music, yeah. I’m on the board, and my daughter Sadie is a musician there. What a fantastic organization, my daughter Sadie is shy and introverted, but we have my parents old piano, and she started piano and singing a little bit when she was young. Over time, she became familiar with Maine Academy of Modern Music and said she wanted to be in a band much to our surprise, because of her introversion and her shyness.

Well suffice it to say that much to our surprise Sadie manages to get up on stage and sing in front of 300 people at their annual Girls Rock Concert. It’s just so inspiring to see a kid who wouldn’t dare speak a word in class, get up and sing on her own an Amy Winehouse song, a Regina Spektor song, and just really thrive in that environment. I’m so grateful for that experience for her, because otherwise I don’t really know what …

I’m sure she would figure out how to come out of her shell, but it was so helpful for me as a parent to see her have a really constructive venue for expressing herself and coming out of her shell in a way that made sense for her.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’m struck by the fact that in order to bring the arts to the Maine community and really the larger community, that we actually have to have nonprofit supporting them, because as you’ve mentioned, we aren’t like other parts of the world where the arts are really integrated into governmental funding for example. Is this one of the ways that you became interested in nonprofits? Tell me that story.

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, sure, so if I had had the talent of being a singer I would’ve done that first. However, I have realized that it is best for me to keep my singing as an advocation. If I in terms of my profession, if I can be the aficionado, and I can be the advocates for artists and people who are doing good work in the community, I’m happy to recognize where my true skills lie.

The way I look at the nonprofit sector, is that it’s the way the American system has set itself up for taking care of the work that either the public, or the private sectors have either opted not to do or can’t do themselves. What happens literally with nonprofits, is that a group of community people get together and they say, “This work has to happen in our community. We are passionate about having these values, these activities, whatever mission it is that they come to, we want this in our community.”

They’ve determined that it won’t either be funded through the public system, or it won’t be funded through the private system. You’ve said, and as I was mentioning about being in other parts of the world, in the United States the arts and cultures tends not to be valued to the extent in either the public, or the private sector as much as you see in other parts of the world. As a result, a lot of the arts and cultural activity does happen supported through the nonprofit sector.

We have about of our 900 members, and then we also know this is similar to the entire population in nonprofits, roughly 16% to 20% are arts and cultural institutions. I would venture to guess that most of the cultural activities that people participate in, there’s a nonprofit behind them that is working hard to expand access to communities to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to do that. It certainly is the nonprofits that are the ones that are taking care of that work.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What is the advantage of having an association of nonprofits?

Jennifer H.:                            Our association is, one of the primary activities that we do is provide information and education to nonprofit staff and board members and volunteers. We really want people to see us as the place they go when they have a question. Our members are and do call us on a daily basis with various questions that pop up, and we also want them to be able to go onto our website and get what we call the best practices of being a nonprofit.

The old adage is, is that you seen one nonprofit, you’ve seen one nonprofit. There are so many different kinds, different sizes, different missions. At the same time, there are some standard ways that in terms of ethics and values, in terms of legal responsibilities, in terms of fiscal responsibility, a checklist of things you need to take care of. We try to be that resource for everyone.

That’s the education side of making sure nonprofits have the information they need to be efficient and effective, but we also do quite a bit of work in advocacy. That’s around making sure that the voice of the nonprofit sector is at the table. As we’ve already talked about, nonprofits are filling a very important role in the success of our Maine communities, and to that end nonprofits really need to be at the decision-making table when a community is figuring out the steps that it wants to take to rectify issues, or take advantage of opportunities.

We feel responsible for making sure that people outside the nonprofit sector understand who nonprofits are, understand the impact that they are making, and facilitate the opportunities for nonprofits to work more closely with their community partners to support Maine nonprofits.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been doing this particular job for about a year and a half, and that’s enough time to know what you know, and know what you’d like to know. What are some of the things that you’ve learned that you are surprised by? What are some of the things that you’d like to keep trying to figure out?

Jennifer H.:                            That’s a great question, I think in the first year and a half in this job, I think what I’ve learned the most is really mostly about me. That sounds really self-centered, but one of the things that we try to emphasize at the Maine Association of Nonprofits is the need for Maine to have leaders who are prepared to work collaboratively, transparently, with integrity, in a collective fashion, that moves Maine forward.

I have had the opportunity, because our Association places so much emphasis on providing nonprofit leaders with the awareness, the self-awareness of what they bring to the table, the type of leadership skills and attributes that they bring to the table. I have learned a lot about my own leadership style, and the things that I think are the qualities and the attributes that I think I can add to our community, add to the state.

This has been really helpful for me, it’s a little bit like you’ve got to understand yourself before you can really start to understand other people. The second part of your question is what more do you want to learn? I’m really excited about following this path a little bit. You may have heard recently that the Maine Association of Nonprofits has adopted a new program from the organization Lift360, a program called Emerging Leaders.

It’s for younger people, younger professionals who are interested in supporting nonprofits to go through a program by which they learn how to serve on a nonprofit board. They will learn a little bit about themselves as leaders, and how they can contribute. I’m really excited about this opportunity, Lift did a great job of getting the program started, and has run it successfully for several years. We are excited now about building on that foundation, and potentially moving it to other parts of the state.

As I said, I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve learned a lot about the qualities of leadership that I think are going to be really important to Maine’s future. I’m excited about the prospect of working with people out there in the community and applying those newfound skills and attributes to the issues of impacting Maine.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you would talk about younger people being on boards, because a lot of times, and maybe this is a complete misperception on my part, but there is the idea that once you retire you join a board, or several boards. I always think of older people who have a lot of experience and have been doing things for a while, and they’re coming in and they’re going to add their valuable knowledge and connections to a board.

What you’re talking about is completely opposite, it’s a fresh perspective and a different approach perhaps. Why is that important?

Jennifer H.:                            The nonprofit community nationally for a while now has been talking about the need to diversify the perspectives on boards. That’s diverse perspectives from a lot of different angles, whether it’s gender diversity, or ethnic diversity, or age diversity, or profession diversity. Many nonprofits are contemplating the idea that they should really have clients who benefit from their services, make sure their representation is on the board.

At the same time there is a lot of research out there, and this was in the creative economy as well, that makes it very clear that having a variety of thinkers and diverse viewpoints leads to more innovation, leads to more creativity. Some of the major corporations these days are talking about how the more diverse the team is, the better outcomes. I think there’s definitely an awareness out there. There’s been lots of research, the trick is how to actually make that happen.

There has been some recent research that we know about nationally, one is called, “Race to Lead,” that is talking about how people from communities of color are having a hard time getting into nonprofit leadership positions at nonprofit organizations, and realizing that a lot of the resistance is coming from an implicit bias on the part of the stereotypical board member as you’re identifying. The challenge for us now is not in the is it important?

I think there’s a lot of evidence that suggests that it is very important and beneficial, the question is how do we make that happen? If we go back to age diversity for a minute, some of that is just a practical who has the time to serve on a board? As you’ve said the first group that you mentioned were retirees, and they are some of the ones that are the most effective on boards, just because they are the ones who have the time to show up.

What people are thinking about, is as a result of that we need to change the way we think. We need to be flexible in the way boards govern themselves, in the way boards receive that type of perspective. It may be that the thirty something who’s just starting a family and has a full-time job and commitments in and outside of work, they may not be able to go to a board meeting once a month for three hours.

They may have to be able to contribute in alternative ways, and so that’s another reason why I’m excited about this new program, is by bringing that program into the Maine Association of Nonprofits, we can really start to chip away at the how do we get these new perspectives on these various boards?

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you have a foot in both camps, you have the right brain, left brain thing going on. You’ve got the creative, and then you’ve got the more perhaps linear. I know that this has been a whole journey for yourself, if you were able to talk to your self at the age of 17 or 18 when you thought you were going to be Melanie Griffith with the shoulder pads and the good hair on the streets of Paris and London and all that sort of thing, what would you say?

Jennifer H.:                            Stop worrying, sometimes I think about all the time that I spent worrying about, what if I had done this? Should I have done this? Did I miss this opportunity? Was I good enough? I’ll never be good enough, and I just literally think about the time, the literal time that I spent worrying, and had I been able to take that time back and just pour it into whatever interested me that day.

Instead of judging what I wasn’t doing, but to focus on what I was doing, and to find the things that truly interested me, the things that make woke me up, and shifted the amount of time I was investing. I really would love to reinvest my worry time. I don’t know, now that I approach my 50s I feel like maybe my worry time is finally starting to abate, but I did a lot of hand wringing in my 20s.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I don’t think you’re alone in this, at least I’m in your group anyway. It’s good to hear you say that. I’ve been speaking with Jennifer Hutchins who became the Executive Director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits in July 2016. We’re happy to have you doing the work you’re doing, and really appreciate your taking the time to talk with us today.

Jennifer H.:                            Thanks, it’s been really fun.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s old port, where everybody is seen as a work of art, and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Fly fisher Evelyn King is a founding director of the Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Women’s Fly fishing Group. She also serves on Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Board of Directors and volunteers with Casting for Recovery, a fly fishing instructional program for breast cancer survivors. Thanks for coming in today.

Evelyn King:                           Oh, I’m honored, thank you for inviting me.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              One of the reasons we were interested in having you in, at least one of the reasons I was interested in having you in, is that one of the ways that my father, who’s a family doctor, used to decompress after having taken care of patients and my nine younger brothers and sisters was to go fishing along the Royal river. He was not a fly fisherman, but I remember this very clearly that there was something about the water that really gave him great calm and great peace.

I didn’t really quite get that as a child why one would do that, but it seems like you get that, because otherwise you wouldn’t be doing the work that you do.

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely, when you’re on the water you’re living in the moment. You appreciate what’s around you, it slows you down, and especially for someone that has a job that requires a lot of thinking or stress, when you get on the river you put that aside. It’s like meditation or yoga, you live in the moment and the double reward is that it de-stresses you, but also the more you live in the moment and notice what’s around you, the better fishermen you are.

You start to see the bugs on the water, you start to really see what’s going on in nature, see the water patterns. It just tunes you in and you become a much better fisherman, so I can see that.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been doing this with women specifically, but you’ve been basically doing fly fishing your entire life, not just with women.

Evelyn King:                           Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You see the benefit for everybody really?

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely, I fish with my husband who was then my boyfriend when I was a teenager. He laughs about it, because I loved … I always want to be outdoors, I love to be outdoors, but I was primarily a runner like Joan Samuelson, but I would go fishing with him, because I wanted to do things with him and I would try. If ever another man showed up on the river, like if we were in a river or on a pond in a boat, if another man showed up I would tuck the rod away.

I thought that I wasn’t good enough to be fishing and I was embarrassed. I loved to fish, but I was really a shy fisherman. He kept encouraging me, telling me that it doesn’t matter, you don’t need to cast well. You do as well as anyone else on the river, and I think that’s why I eventually figured out that a way to give back was to encourage other women to take on that risk as well. To not be afraid and not to be intimidated, and not to follow their passion, because other people were watching them.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you would find that intimidating given that you were one of the early classes of women to integrate at Exeter, and then were in one of the early classes of women to integrate at Bowdoin, where you were in the same class with Joan Benoit Samuelson, and yet you got on the river with men and somehow you felt like it wasn’t your place?

Evelyn King:                           Wow, that’s a good question, or a good comment. I’m also a perfectionist, somewhat of a perfectionist, and I think when I do things I really want to figure them out. When I was fishing, what really got me motivated to get better at fishing, was I would watch other people fish. I didn’t understand why they would put the fly under the bank along the other side of the river? Why were they not fishing below us? How did they know which fly to put on? How did they know to get their fly to land just right?

As a somewhat of a perfectionist I knew I couldn’t do what they were doing, and so I wanted to watch I think. It gave me a lifetime of learning to try to figure those things out.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I actually think that there is something a little bit gender oriented about that, because from what I understand female physicians often feel like they are imposters when they’re early on in their careers. There’s something called the imposter syndrome, whereas male physicians are more likely to believe that they know enough, and feel confident in the work that they are doing.

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I suspect this is probably true across other fields, but it’s interesting that what you’re describing, and I don’t know that this is the case, but I just wonder if there is a gender predisposition here.

Evelyn King:                           You might be right, because I know a number of men that I’ve met through the years that are avid fisherman and have fished all their lives. It hasn’t been their passion to figure out all the flies. They know five or six flies and they know one stretch of river, and they’re very confident at that. That imposter syndrome is … I definitely felt like an imposter, but it didn’t keep me from doing it, it just slowed down my risk-taking when other people were around.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You are also a fourth-generation camp director at a girls camp.

Evelyn King:                           Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been responsible for encouraging young women from an early age to go out and do the things that made them happy regardless of whether there is a gender orientation to their choice.

Evelyn King:                           Right, right, and we always laughed, my grandfather who was the second-generation camp director, camp owner of Campbell Wohelo. He always said there’s nothing women can’t do that men can do, it just sometimes it needs a few more bodies. We would be moving these huge docks on the beach to get them in the water, and sometimes we’d put 30 people, 30 women around the dock to move it. We didn’t need a tractor, we just got enough woman power together.

Yeah, I’ve always felt really strongly about empowering women, and I have two daughters, and I was raised from the time I was two at the summer camp for girls, all the way up through to being a counselor and a camp director. I raised our children the same way there, and I just always felt like it was such a positive environment, but it wasn’t ever about women being better or stronger or anything. It was just having women be in their own environment as a community, and empowering each other and not comparing themselves to the opposite gender during those informative years.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              We’re in an interesting time, because you’ve been doing this work for a long, long while, trying to empower women. Yet many young women are feeling like we’re not far enough along.

Evelyn King:                           Right, it is interesting. I think people are becoming more aware. I don’t have the answer for that one.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I don’t either, that’s why I was asking you, because I figured maybe you had some insights based on the work that you’ve been doing.

Evelyn King:                           Yeah, I think my approach has always been to work in collaboration with men, like with Trout Unlimited. When I started there it was basically all men in the meeting room. I didn’t go in saying, “I am a woman, I am strong.” I just went in saying, “How can I help you bring more women into the fold? Let’s expand this,” and they asked me to do that, and it was just such a treat. I’ve had the men help us with a lot of events, and they’ve been really welcoming, they have been so supportive.

I feel like in my life I’ve gotten so much more done by collaborating with all across the community regardless of gender or nationality or anything, rather than being confrontational about it. Not that, that’s a bad way at all, it’s just a different way, and I just have benefited from collaborations.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I feel the same way, I have two daughters also and a son, so my son is my oldest child, and then my middle child is 22, and I have a 17-year-old. It really never made sense for me, and I have five brothers and a father who I adore. It never made sense for me to be confrontational and to be blaming these men around me for problems that women were experiencing. I don’t know that this is what’s happening now in our culture with every young woman, but I definitely am sensing some friction with some of what’s happening and it’s painful.

Evelyn King:                           It is.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I think specifically of my own son, and I would never want him to feel responsible for things that an entire gender is possibly being blamed for.

Evelyn King:                           Right, yeah, no, I have a son and the two daughters as well. I love the fact that women can be treated equally, should be treated equally, and I like to think of it just on the positive side that it’s so wonderful what we can do to empower our youth. I have a granddaughter now, empower our grandchildren, be role models. It’s not breaking down barriers, but just opening doors of possibility. Look you can go to Trout Unlimited and be one of the first women in the group, and then other women will follow.

Eventually, I’ll hope to take my granddaughter with me to Trout Unlimited, yeah, just to be inspiration and a mentor, and try to take that approach.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about Trout Unlimited. I’m sure there are people who are listening that don’t have a good sense of what that organization is or does.

Evelyn King:                           It’s a national organization, they’re 400 chapters within the US. Maine has five, I belong to Sebago Trout Unlimited, and we have about 600, 650 members. It’s just a wonderful organization. I think a lot of people that are just in the audience that aren’t really participating in conservation are there because they love to fish. Through fishing, they’ve really gained an appreciation for how important it is to have clean, cold water, and to keep invasive species out of the water, and take down dams, and open fish passageways.

Our group has been instrumental in reclaiming five ponds in the state of Maine, and by that I mean taking the invasive species out and cleaning the habitat, so that the native brook trout can spawn and grow, and not be eaten by invasive species. We’ve also helped with two dam removals, and that’s so exciting because you’re opening up the waterways, sea-run brook trout can come in from the ocean. Often on the Mousam River, or the Royal River, they can only go as far as the first impediment.

Trout Unlimited is looking at all these river systems and trying to figure out and collaborating with the state of Maine and National TU, and National Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Fishing Wildlife to try to find ways to fund the removal of dams, or safe passage around them. It’s a very dynamic group, there’s a core group of people, Steve Hines is on our board, and he organizes the conservation part.

He has developed this whole team that helps him now grant writing and organizing with towns and with the water quality people, just trying to collaborate to help pull these things off.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about the work that you do with Casting for Recovery.

Evelyn King:                           Oh, that’s so rewarding. I got asked, I was friends with Bonnie Holding, I have been for years and years. She has annually held a Casting for Recovery retreat for breast cancer survivors. I tried to get into the program for a couple of years, and she always had more volunteers than she needed, and so it motivated me to get my guides license, so that I was qualified, so she couldn’t say no.

Eventually I got to go, I’ve been going for about five years to help on the weekend retreats. It’s the whole combination of getting into nature, getting women into nature, breaking the pattern of thought by exposing them to a new sport. Meeting new people, and developing that bond, and then fishing is, fly fishing especially is therapeutic as you know being a doctor. The motion of casting is therapeutic for people that have had surgery on their breasts.

I think the community that’s built on that three-day weekend is just amazing. I’ve read the comments that people have made afterwards that it sometimes has changed their lives, because it gives them something beyond their illness and their current situation, to dream about, to think about. It’s a peaceful place, so I’ve been helping for five years, and then a couple of times I got discouraged at my skills, because casting looks like a simple thing, but it’s hard to teach it without going down these rabbit holes.

I wanted to learn how to teach it in a really simple, positive way. That inspired me to get my casting certification to be a certified casting instructor just so that I could give back. It’s not something I do as a career, but I just wanted to make that experience as rewarding, and simple, and stress-free as possible for the girls.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What does that entail to get one’s casting certification?

Evelyn King:                           For me it was a two year process of really intense practice. I went to L.L. Bean’s and Rod McGarry, and McCauley Lord. McCauley went to Bowdoin as well, they were instructors in a program, and I did it two years in a road to reinforce what I was learning. The skills, the specific skills needed to teach casting, but along the way it’s really to perfect your own casting, because you need to put yourself out there.

Talk about risk taking, put yourself out there to show what a good cast looks like. What people are inspired to try to learn, and then for two years of practicing, Rod McGarry was my mentor, and we met a couple of times a month at Payson in Park, and then I would cast … I work in Portland, and I would jump in the car in lunch breaks and go to the West End, or Payson Park, or Back Bay with my fly rod and my cones and my hula hoops, and I would just practice accuracy and distance casting.

I also liked doing that, because people would stop and ask me about it. It was a way to show a woman doing something that men would usually do, and also just bring awareness to fly fishing, so that was it. Then the whole process culminates with a written test and an oral practice test, which is harder than anything I’ve done in my whole life. Just being ready for that moment, and being calm enough, and you really have to perfect your skill for any weather, any wind conditions.

When I passed it I was ecstatic, and I remember I did it with another girl, and the two of us both passed. We went down to Massachusetts and passed it, and on the way home we were driving, there was this full moon in front of us, and I said, “Laney, we did it, and every time you see that full moon for the rest of your life you need to feel that sense of empowerment, and just believe that you can do it.” It was wonderful.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you have gone in this direction of fly fishing, because in your parallel life you are a commercial real estate paralegal at Monaghan Leahy, so you have this very intellectual and very technical aspect in your work life. Then you have an intellectual and technical aspect to your other life, but it’s also there’s a mindfulness to that second life I guess.

Evelyn King:                           Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Do you think that you were seeking something like that? Do you think you were seeking a counterbalance?

Evelyn King:                           Oh, always, always. My work path, I love to read, I love to learn, and I really like to be a sleuth. I do due diligence in my work, but it’s the same skill set that you use on the river. I’ve been working in Portland for Monaghan Leahy for 10 years this summer and it’s been wonderful. They’ve been so supportive of what I do, and I have friends, Tom Leahy is a big fisherman, so we are able to share that passion, talking about what we do on the weekends.

When I started 10 years ago, prior to that I had worked for myself doing the same type of work, but I had always dictated my own schedule. When it was a nice day, I took off the middle of the day and I was outside. I always managed to put work in with … Fit it in between other things that I did with the kids, or did with fishing. When I started in a job, a real job, it was my first real job where I had to leave the house at seven in the morning and work a long day.

I got home at seven at night, the number one priority was to have a window. They laugh about this, but I said I really could not work in a room without being able to see the outdoors at least. Then number two priority was to make sure that every moment on the weekend counted. That I could be outside, that I really would treasure, feel so grateful for that time I had outside. No coincidence that 10 years ago was really when I went full force into fishing on the weekends, and into everything fishing related to counterbalance the inside work.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is probably not a relevant question, but I’m just interested, I’m a little nosy sometimes. Why did you decide to go from this other life that you had to this full-time job?

Evelyn King:                           Oh, I am a real estate broker as well as a title abstractor. What I did prior to working at Monaghan Leahy, was going from courthouse to courthouse pulling books and doing research. Right about that time two things happened, and one is that they put the books all online so that it was digital, so that people could stay in their office to do the research. I was a dinosaur, I was of that era of the private independent title abstractor’s.

There are very few now, because people can do the work from their office. Then also there was a slump in the real estate market, and I was doing primarily residential real estate research then, and it really took a nosedive. My husband is a commercial Lobsterman, and at the same time the lobstering industry was floundering. I just decided that it was time for a new adventure, fun to be in Portland, I really was excited to come and work in Portland.

When I interviewed with Tom Leahy at Monaghan Leahy, I was just really excited about the possibility of being in a team. I’d done work mostly on my own, I had a few abstractor’s that worked for me for a while, but suddenly to be part of a community. I think that’s always been a common theme in my life, so it intrigued me and I have really enjoyed it. Never questioned that decision for a second.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Well, I guess it is actually relevant, because most people in their lives now are going to have several iterations of their selves. You can believe when you graduate from Bowdoin as you did and I did, that your life is going to look a certain way. Then things happen, and you adjust, and you sometimes become a different version of your earlier self. That’s actually okay, and it’s actually a good thing, and maybe it’s really important for the new graduates of Bowdoin to understand that.

That there’s not really any wrong choice.

Evelyn King:                           Right, so every downside, every thing that seems like a conflict in your path is apt to lead to something more powerful, more relevant to your life. I think you have to approach life that way, just see every challenge as an opportunity to grow. When I think of what has happened in the last 10 years by that decision, it’s mind boggling. I don’t know what the next story is, I don’t know in 10 years from now what I’ll be doing, but I think it’s very important to not feel so strongly that you have to make a choice that you stick with the rest of your life.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I also have noticed that, particularly in Maine, most people wear lots of different hats, so someone can be a commercial fisherman, and they can also be a filmmaker. Someone can be a chef, and they can also be a singer-songwriter. It’s a very interesting thing that in this … It seems like Maine is very much fostering of that creative spirit.

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely, and the irony is that I was an art major at Bowdoin. As an art major that didn’t prepare me for working in a law firm at all, but that theme has been underlying. Prior to getting into the fishing wholeheartedly, I was doing a lot with jewelry, but at the same time working as a title abstractor, and then working at the summer camp as a camp director. I think Maine is that way. Maine is also so special, because it’s a small community, so you can really make a difference.

My voice is not going to carry forever and ever, but in Maine I can have an impact, you can have an impact. This show is fabulous, and by living in a state where our voices can be heard, it just feels like we can make more of a difference in all the different directions we go in.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been coming to Maine since you were a child really, but you moved to Maine when you were 12?

Evelyn King:                           Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’re originally from Montréal?

Evelyn King:                           Yes, my mother was from the United States and went to McGill to school. She was a skier, and she met my father who was from Canada, and so when they got married they settled in Canada, in Montréal. I have fond memories of skiing in the Laurentian’s, and we lived on the water, but every summer we came down to camp, to the Luther Gulick camps. When I think of my memories of childhood, it’s much more about being in the woods on Sebago Lake, building fairy houses out of twigs and pine cones, and learning to canoe, and being outdoors.

When my parents decided to move to Maine I was thrilled. Yeah, Maine is a really special place.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              For women who might be interested in learning about fly fishing, what would you suggest?

Evelyn King:                           Oh well, I mean obviously I’d love to have anyone that’s interested join our Women’s Fly fishing Group. We don’t charge for the events we have, up till now we have monthly meetings. We’re just trying to provide a very social community of energetic, enthusiastic women that want to learn a new skill. Some are good fly fisherman, women that want to learn additional things, and a lot of the women that come to our meetings are brand-new to the sport.

It’s really exciting to me, I can think of a handful of people that have started fishing because of our group, and have just been so grateful for that community and that empowerment and the enthusiasm of everybody that’s around that’s helping with the group. We’re trying to break down the barriers in making people realize that it’s accessible, you can fish in the Royal River, you can fish in the ocean. In Maine, you can fish just about anywhere, and you can buy a package of gear for under $100 at L.L Bean’s, or probably Cabela’s.

You don’t need to have fancy equipment, and you don’t need to be able to cast perfectly. You can fly fish with six feet of leader out at the end of your rod, and just as if you’re playing with a cat with a little toy. You can just tease the fish and have joy just doing that.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Evelyn King is a founding director of the Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Women’s Fly fishing Group. She also serves on the Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Board of Directors and volunteers with Casting for Recovery, a fly fishing instructional program for breast cancer survivors. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing, and thanks for coming in.

Evelyn King:                           Oh, my honor, thank you for having me.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 343. Our guests have included Jennifer Hutchins and Evelyn King. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-news letter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page.

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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #342: Quincy Hentzel and Paul Golding + Alexandra Sagov

Speaker 1:                                         You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle, and recorded at the studios of Maine magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and Editor in Chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Dr. Belisle:                             This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 342, airing for the first time on April 8th 2018. Today we speak with Quincy Hentzel, the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Paul Golding and Alexandra Sagov, of Family Hope, a mental health resource agency located in Scarborough. Thank you for joining us.

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Dr. Belisle:                             Quincy Hentzel has been the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce since July of 2017. Thanks for coming in today.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Thanks for having me.

Dr. Belisle:                             You’ve been in Maine for, we decided I think, 15 years.

Quincy Hentzel:                  15 years. Yes.

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah. But you’re not from Maine originally.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I’m not. I grew up outside of Chicago, in the suburbs, spent my whole childhood there, did college, did law school, and moved to Maine … I think we just decided … 2003.

Dr. Belisle:                             You followed a boy here-

Quincy Hentzel:                  I did.

Dr. Belisle:                             … is what you told me.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I did. I followed a boy here who was also not from Maine but had gotten a job out here. And we thought that we were gonna stay for just a few years and then move back to Chicago. And we both fell in love with Maine. We’re both still here. We’re not still together, but we’re both still here. And I just love, love the city of Portland, love the state of Maine, and have made this my home.

Dr. Belisle:                             You had an interesting detour between Chicago and Maine. You actually were in DC for quite a while.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Well, I worked in DC, so my time in DC was while I was living in Portland, so when I moved to Portland, the very first job that I got was doing government relations work and lobbying work. And that job took me to Augusta and also to Washington DC, so I was always living in Portland but traveled quite a bit to Washington.

Dr. Belisle:                             When you were in school, did you know that you wanted to do lobbying work?

Quincy Hentzel:                  No, I think lobbying work is one of those jobs that you don’t really know exists. I mean, there’s so many of those jobs out there. I think people know doctor, and lawyer, and accountant. And I really didn’t know what lobbying was. Actually, the very first opportunity I was given to lobby, I had taken a temporary job at a law firm in Portland. And one of the attorneys there asked if I would be interested in lobbying. And the first thing I said was yes. And then the second thing I said was what’s lobbying? And that’s kind of what started my professional career in the area of government relations.

Dr. Belisle:                             So define lobbying for us then.

Quincy Hentzel:                  So how I define lobbying is actually is being an advocate, so I spent my first 11 years in Portland, I spent lobbying for the Maine credit unions. So I was essentially an industry advocate for credit unions. And I represented the credit unions, both in Augusta, in our State House, as well as Washington DC. I worked on policy issues that would impact credit unions, which is essentially anything in the financial services realm and worked with lawmakers, to ensure that the laws, and the rules, and the regulations that they passed were actually gonna be helpful to our industry and not hurtful to our industry.

Dr. Belisle:                             That’s a long time to spend on something like credit unions. Did you have an interest in the financial field before you started doing that?

Quincy Hentzel:                  I did not have a particular interest in the financial field. I think, what happened, not so dissimilar to me moving to Maine, is I really fell in love with the credit unions. I fell in love with the credit union movement and the people who make up the credit unions. Maine is a very heavy credit union state. We have a lot of wonderful banks, as well, and we have a lot of wonderful credit unions. There seems to be plenty of room for both in the market. And I just really fell in love with the people. And I enjoyed my time there, so yeah, I think I probably stayed in that job a lot longer than I ever thought that I would, but you blink your eyes, and all of a sudden, 11 years has passed.

Dr. Belisle:                             So what is it about credit unions, in particular, that you found so fascinating?

Quincy Hentzel:                  I think it was just the people. I think credit unions are non-profit financial institutions. And I just really felt a connection to and a passion to their work. Their motto is people helping people. And that’s just something that I’ve found, over the course of my own life, as something that I’m very passionate about, as well, so it was really kind of neat to be able to work for a financial institution, that really had the same values that I have and just the people, you can imagine the people who work in an institution or in a movement, like the credit union movement, are people that I wanted to spend my time with and I wanted to be connected with. So it was really easy for me to end up spending over a decade, my first job, which is probably pretty rare, to stay at your first job that long. But I did, and I really enjoyed every second of it.

Dr. Belisle:                             Why did you decided to go to law school in the first place?

Quincy Hentzel:                  So I essentially went to law school, because my dad was a lawyer as well, and I know that’s probably not the best reason to spend ungodly sums of money to go to graduate school and to get a JD, but I don’t regret going to law school. I love school, and I would be a perpetual student if I could afford it. I’ve never really practiced law, so I guess that goes to the point that maybe it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but it was the path that I went down, and honestly, it was the path that led me to where I am today.

Dr. Belisle:                             What did you like to do when you were younger, when you were in school?

Quincy Hentzel:                  In terms of just fun activities or subject matters?

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah, well when you were in high school, what was it that was most interesting to you?

Quincy Hentzel:                  That’s a really good question. You’re gonna bring me back, bring me back a few years. I always really enjoyed politics. I think high school was when I started to really pay attention to the news and pay attention to what was happening in DC and pay attention to the President. So I think I always had an interest in politics and in policy. And I think it was the policy piece that maybe led me down the path of yeah, law school may be a good decision to do that, because everyone always says, you can do so many things with a law degree. I think that is very true, and I never thought that I would actually work in policy though, which is really interesting. I actually thought I would go into corporate law. And I don’t know exactly why I felt that way, but in college and in law school, I was like, I think I could see myself in a big corporation practicing law, which now I find that actually comical, because I don’t see myself doing that at all.

Dr. Belisle:                             Was your father a corporate attorney?

Quincy Hentzel:                  He was a corporate attorney, which there you go. Now we’re piecing it all together. He was a corporate attorney, so he was a corporate attorney for US Steel, in Chicago, for many, many years. That was his background, and again, I think I just kind of thought so highly of my dad, and knew what his career path was and what his profession was, and just really saw myself following in his same footsteps.

Dr. Belisle:                             I think what you’re describing is not that unusual. I mean, my father was a doctor, and I became a doctor. And he was a family practice doctor, so I got training in family medicine, and I still practice family medicine. But it is interesting that he and I are different people, so he and I have different ways of approaching the world in general, but when you’re young, you don’t really know. You don’t know how different you are from your parent. You assume that if you do what they do, then you’ll have the success that they have, right?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Exactly.

Dr. Belisle:                             But now you are working with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, so tell me about that.

Quincy Hentzel:                  So that’s been a really great opportunity. I stepped into that role at the Portland Regional Chamber, in February, as Interim CEO, and I held that position for a few months and then was named permanent CEO in July of last year. And it’s been such a fun and eye opening experience. I’ve been closely connected to the Chamber for a long time. I served on the board of the Portland Chamber for probably nine years before I took over this role. So I was not a stranger to the Chamber or the Chamber community. But it is a drastically different thing to serve on a board of directors as opposed to actually run an organization.

Dr. Belisle:                             How many people are in your organization?

Quincy Hentzel:                  So in terms of staff, there’s only six of us. But in terms of members, we have over 1300 member organizations that are part of the Chamber.

Dr. Belisle:                             So describe your day-to-day activities.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Wow. I think that’s one of the aspects of my job that I love the most is that it’s so different every day. Yesterday, I actually didn’t leave the office once, which is really rare, but I had a pretty calm day at my desk. I was able to get some work done. I had a few meetings in the office. We had a staff meeting. We’re kind of all back from the holidays, so I kind of purposely gave myself a slow ramp-up day. But my days can be all over the place. Tomorrow, my day will start at 7:00 in the morning. I will be at the Holiday Inn by the Bay for Eggs and Issues, which is our monthly breakfast series that we have. And then from there, I think I have a litany of meetings, whether I’m meeting with a member of my board, whether I’m meeting with a member of our organization. I could be meeting with the City Manager about an issue. I could be meeting with a city counselor about an issues. Maybe there’s a stakeholder group that’s pulled together to talk about the opioid epidemic in our city. Maybe we’re talking about regional transportation issues.

I think one of the things I’ve learned … I knew this, serving on the board, but having stepped into this role, I’ve realized the reach of a chamber of commerce. When part of your mission is to promote regional prosperity, that encompasses a lot of things. And so I think by virtue of that I get the opportunity to talk about and to be engaged in a lot of the critical and really important conversations that are taking place. And those conversations lead me, so hence, I’m going back to your first question of what’s your day look like. It’s different every single day, and it’s exciting every single day. And I feel like I am helping the Chamber of Commerce in Portland have a role in helping to shape our community.

Dr. Belisle:                             You’ve mentioned the opioid epidemic, just for example, and regional transportation. Are those two of the big issues that you’re working with right now?

Quincy Hentzel:                  They’re two of the issues. If I had to prioritize the issues that we’re working on, those would probably be in our top 10 list. Our list is long, long and mighty, but those are two that are really important to our members. I think the opioid crisis, again, that’s been something that I’ve been very acutely aware of, even before I took on this role. Now that I’m in this role, I think I’ve become just extremely aware of the prevalence of that issue and the impact that it has on our members. And we see it, too, every day. Our office is on Congress Street, Congress and Elm. We’re right by the library. You can see the crisis on the streets, and it’s really heartbreaking to see that. And you can see the impact that has on businesses, whether it’s a business that happens to be, maybe, in that are of town, where there’s a lot of activity on the streets or whether it’s a business that has employees or staff that are struggling with an opioid addiction, or maybe they have a family member who has. I just think, in my last few months here, that issue has really risen to the top of our list of one that I don’t think anybody can escape the opioid crisis.

I think it touches everybody in some capacity, some much more deeply and much more personally than others. But it is there. It is real. It is getting worse. I mentioned Eggs and Issues a few minutes ago. In December of 2015, we had the Police Chief. Chief Sauschuck presented Eggs and Issues. And he talked about the opioid crisis. And it was one of the first times that the business community had had this conversation. That was in December of 2015. And it’s not gotten better. And it’s gotten worse. And that’s heartbreaking too. I think everyone’s just struggling to figure out what’s the answer to that issue.

Dr. Belisle:                             What are some of the other issues that have risen to the top for you?

Quincy Hentzel:                  So one of the big challenged that the Chamber is trying to tackle right now is just the level of growth that Portland is having right now. And I think part of it is actual growth. We are growing. We are building. I know we’re sitting in a new building right now on Middle Street. There’s been a lot of development. People are attracted to Portland. Portland’s kind of made the world stage. People know about Portland, so we have tourism’s up. And you’ve got people of all ages who are moving to the city. And from the Chamber’s perspective, that’s great. We want to see a really vibrant community. We want to see a robust economy. We want more businesses for our businesses here to serve and more consumers for our businesses to serve, as well, so we want to see that growth.

But there are people … And I understand this … that are seeing that growth and that are getting really scared and that don’t know what this growth is going to mean for them. And they know change is coming. Change is here, and there’s more change coming. And they don’t see what’s on the other side of that change. And I can appreciate that. I think change is hard for everybody in so many different aspects of our life. But I think that’s the point where we’re at right now with the business community, really wanting to see our community to grow and then having a whole other sect of our community that’s pushing back on that growth and who is just scared for what that growth means. And that’s been showing itself. We had an election last November, where Portland had two really critical and extremely devastating referendum questions on the ballot. One was dealing with rent control. One was dealing with changing the way we do zoning. Both were citizen initiated referendums. And those were initiated really from a place of fear, fear of change, and fear of rents being too high, and people thinking that perhaps rent control might help the fact that rents are too high.

And so those are issues that we’re faced with at the Chamber and that we’re trying to figure out how to deal with. We opposed both of those referendums. Both of them lost. The zoning referendum did not lose by the largest of margins, which is really interesting and scary to us. But it’s just a real time and a place right now in Portland and trying to figure out how do we balance the new development, and the new condos going up, and then new development happening on the waterfront, which is wonderful but also very different from what people were used to. There’s now a moratorium on Munjoy Hill, because people feel really nervous and scared about the demolitions that are happening and the new buildings that are going up, so we’re in this place of change, and I think, with change, comes huge opportunity. I think we will definitely get through this. I don’t worry about getting through it. But we’re trying to help have a community-wide conversation with all parties about what this change is. And can we get to the other side while maintaining all the things that we love about Portland and Portland’s authenticity, but also being able to support more business and to build more housing?

How do we get there? We’re gonna get there somehow, we hope. But how do we get there, and how do we bring everybody along to get us there?

Dr. Belisle:                             Given that you describe yourself as a potentially perpetual student, this must be a really interesting opportunity for you, because you’ve had the chance to learn about lots of different areas, like the opioid crisis, and housing, and credit unions. Do you feel yourself continually challenged?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Yes, I do. I do. I have a hard time seeing this position not challenging me at some point in the future. Maybe we’ll get there, but there’s so many issues to be tackled. And there’s always new issues coming onto the horizon. So yes, I feel like I’m constantly in a place where I’m learning something new. I’m kind of bringing myself up to speed. I’m figuring out how have we done it before? Where do we wanna go with it? How do other cities deal with it? We’re not the only city that’s grappling with these issues, so trying to help and be a part of finding the solutions. So yes, I feel like I am a perpetual student in this role, and every day, I’m tackling a new issue. And I go home, most days, and I’m like, wow, I have a pretty amazing job. It’s just very cool to be able to have a role where my primary goal is to help build and support a vibrant Portland and a vibrant Portland region.

Dr. Belisle:                             You live in Cape Elizabeth now.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I do.

Dr. Belisle:                             It sounds like you put a lot of time in at work, because it sounds like a pretty big job.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Yes.

Dr. Belisle:                             But when you’re not doing that, what do you like to do?

Quincy Hentzel:                  That’s a very good question. I have struggled, as of late, to find time for myself, because it is. We’re trying to take on a lot. We’re tackling a lot. So there is a lot of work to be done, but when I’m not working, I’m trying really hard to read, not for work. I have a lot of reading that I do as part of this position, but I’m really trying to find time to read. I do love to read. I don’t often have the time to do it, so trying to carve out the time and trying to be outside more, especially in the winter. I don’t ski, which has been challenging. Everyone tells me every single winter, you’ve gotta start skiing, because it’s really a great way to embrace the winter. But I think I’ve passed that phase in my life. I’ve tried it a few years ago. It was not pretty to strap wood slats onto my feet and send me down a mountain, but still, trying to be outside more, and trying to just enjoy … I mean Cape Elizabeth, Portland, just to walk around, to walk around the trails, to head down by the lighthouse, take my poor dog for a walk, who I probably have not been giving my dog enough attention either, so I think just making time for myself.

Dr. Belisle:                             What are some of your favorite places in Maine?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Oh, that’s a tough question, because I think Maine is honestly, probably, the most beautiful place in the world, and I pinch myself driving to work those summer mornings over the bridge and just looking at the Bay and being like, I can not believe that I live here. I can’t believe I’m crossing this bridge. I live on one side. I work on the other side. But I would say probably my most favorite place and the place that I get to spend the most time is on Casco Bay. I love the Bay. We have a sailboat. Actually, we go back and forth between having a sailboat and not having a sailboat, but we love to be on the water. We have plenty of friends with boats, and that’s the best I’ve learned is if you’re not gonna have your own boat, it’s probably better to have a friend that has a boat.

But we also have a cottage out on Long Island, Maine, so we’re on the water a lot, whether on our own boat, friends’ boats, ferry boat. And I just find the Bay one of the most beautiful, beautiful places in all of Maine and particularly those early morning ferry boat rides, when we’re out on Long Island during the week, and we’re commuting into work in the morning. It’s pretty stunning. I used to do the rush hour commute in Chicago, which looks very different than the morning commute on Casco Bay.

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah, it’s interesting, because we have had a lot more traffic in the last few years, leaving Portland. You probably notice on your side, going towards Cape but also going North.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Right.

Dr. Belisle:                             But then I’ve talked to other people, from California, who live outside of Los Angeles, and they’re like, you do not know traffic. This is traffic, but it’s not the way that it is elsewhere.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Right. Right. It’s all relative. I completely agree with that. I laugh sometimes, too, when people talk about the traffic at Portland, because you’re right. You could be stuck if you leave 15 minutes later than normal. Your commute has gone from 30 minutes to two hours, if you’re outside Chicago and other big cities. But it is all relative. And I think, for Portland, we’re a very small city, and traffic, it’s been creeping up there. And you do notice it, and if you’re driving to work, in the morning rush hour or the evening rush hour, I mean, there are a lot more cars on the road. I think that’s part of what I had mentioned, transportation issues, before, as one of our priorities at the chamber. And I think that’s something a lot of people are looking at. I mean, I know the city of Portland is looking at that too. How do we manage the traffic? How do we provide alternatives to people? Are there alternatives to driving a car?

There’s a lot of people moving to Portland who don’t wanna own a car. So to be able to provide them with other ways and other means to get to work, whether it’s people are on their bikes. There’s buses, perhaps different bus routes. Parking is always an issue, and I don’t know if the solution’s necessarily more parking, because then you just have more traffic. I mean, we do need a certain level of parking. You’re always gonna have those people who drive to work. I’m probably one of them. But giving people alternatives, and helping to mediate the amount of traffic that we see, and giving people other ways to get to and from work, I think is really important. And there are a lot of people, in groups, in organizations, that are really putting a lot of time, and effort, and energy into that right now.

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah, and I don’t wanna diminish people’s observations about, I mean, if you’re not from Los Angeles. And it seems like there’s more traffic, that’s still a very legitimate thing.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Definitely.

Dr. Belisle:                             And we live in a city that really hasn’t been built for that. We haven’t been built for more cars. We haven’t been built for more cars leaving the city during … I’m still gonna call it rush hour. So how do we, I guess, retrofit? How do we figure that out?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Right.

Dr. Belisle:                             My last question is what has surprised you about yourself? If you were to go back, I don’t know, let’s say 20 years in your life and think about the person you were at that point. What has surprised you about who you’ve become?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Is a really good question. Gosh, thinking back to my 20 year old self, I think my level of resilience is much more than I ever thought. We all go through things in our life, and we all go through changes, and struggles, and challenges. And I feel like I’ve gone through a lot, probably not dissimilar from any people. You go through a lot of ups and downs. And I think I’m pretty pleasantly surprised at my resiliency. Sitting as a high school or a college student, where I had gone through nothing really difficult, or bad, or challenges, and to see what I’ve gone through up until today, I feel like I weathered it pretty well. And I consistently surprise myself, as to what I can get through. When you’re facing it head-on, you’re thinking, I’m never gonna survive this. I’m never gonna make it through this. And then you do make it through it. And you’re stronger. And you’re better. And you’ve learned a lot, so yeah, I think the resiliency piece. If I had to look back the last 20 years, I’ve weathered the storm okay.

Dr. Belisle:                             Is there any piece of advice that you would give yourself, if you were able to sit down and say, hey Quincy of the 20’s, this is what I’d like to tell you.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I would definitely say to be more confident. I think I’m fairly confident now, in my older age, but my 20 year old self, probably not so much. And I think confidence is just such a wonderful and important trait to have. I think confidence, it can get you through some really difficult situations. It helps to build trust in other people. And I probably was a lot less confident as my 20 year old stuff than I am right now. And that’s probably advice I would give any 20 year old person out there is just be confident. Carry yourself with confidence, and that will take you so far in life.

Dr. Belisle:                             I’ve been speaking with Quincy Hentzel, who has been the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, since July of 2017. Thank you for all the good work you’re doing and for coming in today.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Thank you so much for having me. This was a lot of fun.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art, and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Dr. Belisle:                             Paul Golding is the Executive Director of Family Hope, a mental health resource agency, located in Scarborough. He has served in a number of senior roles in the public health advocacy, higher education, and social services fields. Alexandra Sagov has a Masters in Social Work, and has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years. She has been with family hope since 2017. Thank you for coming in today.

Alex S.:                                      Thank you for having us.

Paul Golding:                       Thanks for having us.

Dr. Belisle:                             Paul, I’ll start with you. You came to the United States in 1990, after getting your education and your early background in the United Kingdom. Why the United States?

Paul Golding:                       Why not? Let’s see. In 1989, I finished up a long-term contract in higher education, and I’ve worked doing a computer project for a library. And I was offered a chance to come to Seattle and set up a database for a biomedical research company. And so that gave me the opportunity to get a green card. But it took a little while, because bureaucracy. And by the time I got through all the necessary hoops, that startup company had gone under. But I got a green card out of the deal, and I went to the embassy. And they said, “Well, you got a green card. Find a job.” So it was a very different time. Anyway, so I took a job with the American Lung Association doing computer and database work, and then slowly evolved up the food chain to do marketing, development, and also some other roles, and then went into higher education with the University of Washington, Portland State, took a trip out to Boston looking for work, came up to Portland, fell in love with it, and have been here pretty much ever since.

So I took a job then with Day One, an adolescent substance abuse agency. I worked there for a while, then the Center for Grieving Children, then Stepping Stones. It used to be called Maine Adoption Placement Services, and most recently, landed at Family Hope, so yeah.

Dr. Belisle:                             How about you, Alexandra? You’re originally from the Boston area?

Alex S.:                                      Yep, I grew up in Boston, and I came to Maine. My mother has had a summer home in Kennebunk for about, gosh, now it’s 37 years. And when she retired up here, I’m a single mom, and so my wonderful son and I came up here. And I spent a year as a volunteer in service to America with the United Way of York County. And that really gave me an idea of what I wanted to do, which was to be a social worker, both clinically and community oriented. So I went to the University of New England and got my Masters degree. And I’ve been here ever since.

Dr. Belisle:                             The work that you’re doing with Family Hope is very interesting and very necessary, also difficult. And the people that are coming in for services generally have complicated situations that you’re working with. So you’ve chosen to frame this as Family Hope. How are you able to continue to have that sense of hope in the midst of … Well, we’ll start with you Alexandra. Yeah?

Alex S.:                                      I’ve always believed that, no matter how difficult a situation is and no matter how small you can move forward, it can always get better. The people who come to us are obviously in very difficult situations, but I find that even just having a place to come, to feel like you’re working with a seasoned clinician who really cares, right away, it makes them feel better. And my goal, when I’m working with people, is I don’t let them out the door unless they feel hopeful. And that’s really my goal. And in all the people that I’ve worked with, I’ve been overwhelmed by the gratitude and also the ability to make some changes, to connect people with services, to help them make difficult decisions, whether it’s with how they’re gonna structure their will, what they can and can’t control, and also if it’s about grieving, the child they wish they had versus the one they do. So it’s an extraordinary organization, and it’s a mental health service that has never existed in the history of mental health. And so it’s a concept that I think we’re presenting to society, that might take a while for people to actually grasp, that this can exist. So it’s very rewarding and exciting.

Paul Golding:                       Well, Alex tells exactly what we do. How we came into existence, our founder, Donna Betts, she went through this, as a parent of an adult. Her adult son was mentally ill, and she struggled to find the correct diagnosis for him, to get services in place, and because of the various challenges that we have, here in Maine, and we do it throughout the United States, in diagnosis, and accessing services, and working with adult onset mental illness, she found it extremely frustrating. And unfortunately, her son died to suicide. And so to try and make sense of that truly horrific situation, she founded Family Hope. And it was incorporated in 2012, and after five years at the helm, she stepped down and is now doing something else with her life. And so Alex and I represent, to some extent, the next wave of people and come in and pick it up.

It was an agency that was in good shape. We inherited it. And it had been in a testing and development stage. I mean, it was a strong program, and now, we feel like we’re the next wave of that, as we try to expand services, get the word out about who we are and what we do. And we’ve seen, I think, in the last year, we saw an eight-fold increase in the number of families that we serve, which of course, put pressure on us to find the funding, because we don’t charge for services, because we don’t need people who are struggling to navigate a poor city and services anyway, to then have to struggle to find the resources to access what we do.

So that’s how we came into existence, and so the next wave for us is to expand our board, expand our capacity to support the increase in services that we’re seeing, and try and break down the stigma associated with mental health, advocate for a greater understanding of it, work with families to navigate services, both for the identified patient … And the thing that Alex talks about, what is unique, I think, to Family Hope, is that we start by trying to address it on a family level. And the view that I say is if properly supported, families are then the natural supports of the mentally ill person, and if properly supported and educated, family members can not only not do the wrong thing when they’ve got someone but do the right thing.

And so the affected others, the families, they need the support, in order to best support their loved ones, because we’re dealing with a chronic situation. We’re not dealing with an acute illness, by and large. We’re dealing with people that have chronic mental health problems, so once that impacts a family system, it’s a permanent change, and families are very good at dealing with short-term crises. And they focus on the loved one. They may, in fact, get them services, and they begin to do better. But it’s impacted the family in a way that they now need support going forward. And so we are unique, in that sense, at least here in the States. It’s predicated on some good research that came out of Canada, and it’s embottled it. It waxes and wanes in Britain, depending on various government fundings for those kinds of services. But it’s the notion that we should support the family, not just the patient.

And so that means, of course, that every phone call is different. Every family situation is different. And one of the things that we’re trying to do at Family Hope, with the model that we inherited and the one that we’re developing is not to replicate the kinds of cultures that many social service agencies have, where the front-line staff get burned out. So you work closely with one family, from soup to nuts, and then move on. And we try not to have a heavy caseload, where you’re not doing very much for anyone. You’re just trying to keep things going for an hour a week, indefinitely. We try and work closely with the family until, as Alex says, suffering is reduced and relieved, and people feel hopeful.

And a lot of that is making referrals and suggestions, and connecting people to supports in the communities, and hearing back from whether that works or not, and then trying some other stuff, and then moving forward. So it’s intensive, but it’s not long-term. I mean, many of the social service agencies that we have here in town, they’ll open a client. And that client may be on their books for years, because great people are doing great work with them, but the family’s not being supported. They’re not getting connected to other resources. And so they’re moving them an inch at a time, and we’re trying to move people a mile very fast, I would say.

Dr. Belisle:                             I think about the need that we have in the state and really, across the country, maybe across the world. I just happen to know about our own state. And I wonder how possible it is to help people in this intensive way, in large numbers.

Alex S.:                                      So one of the goals at Family Hope, what we’d eventually love, is to have this in every county. One of the unique ways in which we operate is they are welcome to come to the office and meet with us. I can meet them in the community. I can go to their homes. And I think one of the struggles and something that we wanna look at and would be great, if we could get funding, is to really be able to quantitatively and qualitatively be able to really document and tie it into how does this help, right? And so anecdotally, everybody that we talk to, I mean, not one person has ever said, oh that’s a terrible idea.

And so one of the things that Paul and I are looking at are, what are the barriers, right, that people are dealing with, that aren’t being addressed? And so when you have adults, and this is true I think in every state here, is that you have the right to be mentally ill. That’s a fact. And that’s often something that’s very painful for parents to recognize, that they don’t have any rights to information, to doctors, and so we have families who are literally help hostage for … I have one case … eight years, over 30, with probably the most serious case of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve ever seen, I mean really. And so one of the things that I was struggling to try to do, because he can’t leave the house, is how am I gonna get a clinician to come in and have eyes on him and perhaps even be able to medicate him enough, so that his anxiety decreases? He can then go out into the community and get Maine Care and get on an Act Team, which is an intensive outpatient treatment.

And so I did talk to some psychiatrists, and I said, okay, what would it take, right, to be able to get you into that house? And it was money, because these people don’t have insurance. They wouldn’t be able to bill for their time there, and then if they had to travel. And so what I said to them is, what if I got a grant that would actually pay you to do that? And would you also be willing to do it on a sliding scale? So these are the kinds of concepts, right, they’re not out there in any way, shape, or form. I’m very excited and also a little fearful that people won’t get the value of it. And what we’re asking, right, is for them to suspend disbelief, to invest in it, and then see what the results are. So that’s an example of how we’re looking to address barriers that haven’t been addressed before.

Paul Golding:                       And so I think, as Alex says, you use the data and the experience of your clients, to try and bring about systemic shift in thinking. Providers are there. When I go out and talk to case managers and clinicians about who we are and what we do, the phone rings off the hook. I make a presentation, and my phone is ringing as I leave the meeting, people trying to access that, because they, themselves, know that I have a family. If you could just spend a few hours with them, that would help my client tremendously. So there’s a lot of buy-in at the executive level, when I go out and make presentations to various providers around town. They get it. But the traction to bring those services in-house really comes from front-line staff, front-line staff who are working with the clients. So those are the people that we try and go and educate.

Now the challenge, of course, is the more the phones ring, the more expensive it gets. And so funding is always a challenge. We have a fundraiser next week at the West Inn, and we hope that people will come and enjoy the night. We write grants. We do appeals. We have a board doing all those things. So we’re just like every other non-profit, but our view, I think, in the long-run, is that we’ll be able to take the quantitative and qualitative experience that we have and translate that into policy and to try and get the Department of Health and Human Services, or other providers, to partner with us and to find ways to ultimately bring about that systemic change. And I think that’ll come. I have faith in that, because I worked at the Center for Grieving Children for many years. And that was a new idea. That idea came along for peer support for kids.

This center here in Portland was the third such one in the country. There’s now over 350 such centers around the country. There’s a National Alliance. I had the distinct honor of being the president of that for a while. And one of the things that we used to hear when we get together for conferences and stuff was that we needed big funding in order to make that happen. And the New York Life Foundation got behind bereavement. There’s an organization that makes a lot of money, and many of their employees were tired of going out and giving checks to founders after being a horrible loss and not knowing how to better help those families. So the New York Life Foundation got behind the National Alliance.

We’re looking for that kind of, both here in Maine and on the national scene, looking for someone, some industry partner perhaps, who sees that. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies can take a step back and say, look it’s not just medication. Medication’s an important part of this. If psychiatrists and psychologists can step back and say, it’s not just our corner, I mean, I think that will come. I think that will come in America. And then when it happens, it’ll happen fast, and it’ll happen big. But that’s a big part of what we’re doing. We’re just trying, right now, to replicate the Alex’s of the world in every county here in Maine. And so we don’t need millions of dollars to do that. We need thousands of dollars to do that. But we always have our eye on the fact that we have something that’s unique here. It’s eminently knowable, eminently replicable, easily trainable. So I think, from that point of view, it will come.

And it’s to Donna’s credit, our founder, that she put something together that has that potential. And now we’ve gotta put our foot on the gas, bring in more money, get more people, and it will catch fire. I mean, I genuinely believe that. We have a passionate board. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of need. So if we can do things differently and it works, the word will get around.

Alex S.:                                      I think there are some natural partnerships that we’re actually having trouble solidifying. And I’m not exactly sure why. So for example, adult services at DHS, adult protective services, I spoke to somebody there. And she was, I can’t believe we don’t know about you. This would be a great fit. But yet the referrals haven’t come in. One of the things that I will do with a family, where there’s a potential for either violence or suicide is I will call Crisis with the family, and I will also call the local police department. And I’ll say, listen, I wanna give you a heads up. We’re not in an eminent situation, but if we call you, I want you to be able to immediately go and know whether this person is aggressive, because sometimes the relationships with law enforcement and mental healthy have gone awry, although there is a lot of movement towards that.

And so I had a recent exchange with the York County Sheriff Department, and they hadn’t heard of us. And so what I liked about it was they invited us to come and speak, but what’s difficult is because when you’re a parent of an adult, if I was a therapist of that identified child, I can’t give you any information. And so I have to imagine that there are people that are serving the clients. And when I was a case manager, I would get calls from hysterical parents. I can listen, but I can’t respond. That would be a perfect opportunity, or a police officer that was out on a scene to say, here’s Family Hope’s card. Call them. And I have yet to have an experience where a family has come that we have not gotten them into a better place. So that’s my biggest concern is about how are we not partnering? How are we not becoming part of the fold?

Paul Golding:                       But an interest into that point, just last week, I was part of a panel discussion that South Portland Police Department put on, and they had people from the Crisis Team, from Opportunity Alliance, and someone from NAMI, who’s people we partner with, and the behavior health professional, Dana, who goes out with the police on those calls. And so Portland has it. Westbrook has it. South Portland has it. And that’s very much on the cutting edge. That’s not typical for Maine police departments, and it’s not typical around the country. But there’s something is beginning to happen. So as Alex said, the other day when she dealt with that family, said, that’s great. What’s cool about that is we can call their police chief or their sheriff, have them talk to their peer, at the Police Chief of South Portland. They will say, here’s how we’re doing it. Here’s why we do it that way. Again, it’s incremental. That’s great. What I would love is it’s great when you do it piecemeal like that, but I would love that that be part of the curriculum of the Criminal Justice Academy … When I worked at Day One, one of our colleagues from one of our programs was on the curricula there to talk about substance abuse … to get people to make referrals to the treatment network and into Juvenile Drug Court.

Because police officers have a lot of things going through their mind when they roll up on any scene, whether it’s an accident or a crisis, but the more it’s part of their thinking of diverting people into treatment, the better it is, so it’s common, but you can tell we’re impatient. [crosstalk 00:50:08].

Dr. Belisle:                             I don’t blame you for your impatience, because I feel the same way. I mean, I’m seeing more rather than less violence directed towards self and other, with people who are traumatized, with people who are grieving, with people who have some sort of biologic mental illness. And it can’t come fast enough, from my standpoint, as a doctor, as a member, as a member of the community. And we have not solved this problem. And I don’t know what we’re waiting for.

Alex S.:                                      Money, really.

Paul Golding:                       Well, I mean, that’s always the easiest answer. And I’m not going to disagree. If someone wants to come down with a huge bag of money, we’ll make a huge difference. But I also worked in public higher education for many, many years. And that was the joke there. We used to sit around the room. And of course, I worked in development, because we didn’t have enough money. But it was this idea it was the last thing in America that people would throw lots of money at in the vague hope that it would change things. So resource is important, but will is incredible … and smart thinking and joined up thinking and resolve to make changes. I mean, if you look at the recent issue around the gun debate, which is a natural discussion to look at … So you’ve got people on one side of the argument, they’re looking at the constitutionality of it. On the other half, they’re looking at access to weaponry and the scale of carnage that can be done by weapons. And then, it just comes polarized, and then it goes away. It becomes a stalemate.

And the thing that’s interesting to me there is whether the issue’s around who accesses guns and stuff, there has to be a point where the country transcends that and says, we have to break out of what we’ve been doing. And I do feel, I do feel that potential is there in the mental health field. Some of it is coming out of the opioid crisis, that people have realized, how did we get to this point, where we have an incredible number of deaths here in Maine? How did we get to it? How do we get out of it? And suddenly, people change the way they think. And then that leverage can happen. So when it comes back to our mission, I mean, to have three police departments, in fairly close proximity, have behavior health work, to go out on those kinds of calls, and to connect to services, and to hold community forums is great. How do we do that on a state-wide level? How do we join up? Well, it would be great if we had a Governor that thought about things in those terms, if we had a Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, who thought about it in those terms, rather than just purely in budgetary terms.

And I’ll give you a little editorial. There is a wonderful study being funded by the Lunder Foundation, looking at a similar program, not the same, but a similar program to ours, that Maine Behavioral Health is doing, in which they are looking at how do those support families of folks. And they’re tracking all the reduced costs in medication, in hospitalizations, and incarcerations, and stuff. And the Department of Health and Human Services has a great interest in what the outcome of that data is. There are specific questions, as I was given to understand is, will these people be off welfare. Will these people go back to work? If we support the families of the mentally ill people, will those mentally ill people go back to work? Will they get off welfare?

And that’s an interesting question, but it’s one question. And I think it’s not the most interesting. And I think it tells you what the agenda is. So there has to be a change in values too. And one in five, or one in four people are gonna experience mental health issues in their life, here in Maine, across the country, so we have to think about it differently. We have to view it differently. And many, many people are mentally ill and live fully functional lives. They just have to take their medication, got to treatment. Alex can talk about all that stuff, but yeah, we have to have a shift in values. And that will come. No one talked about childhood bereavement 30 years ago. Now, it’s a commonplace thing, when the kids experience bereavement differently. Mental health will be dealt with differently. It will come. I mean, it’s a cool country, because it reinvents itself every generation. It just needs to pick that as a priority and get on it. That’s my soapbox right there.

Alex S.:                                      Another thought that I had was Portland, wen I first came here, the diversity level was zero. And now we have a huge refugee population. Actually, I volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, every Wednesday, and it’s 90% African or immigrant children. And I also had a conversation with a friend, who they’re refugees, and they’re a first break schizophrenia. And I thought, here’s another area, where culturally, language-wise, so these are the kinds of things. Paul and I are not exactly sure where we need to have this conversation. We know that we can write grants. We know who natural partners may be. And always in organizational training, especially in non-profit, when it’s connected to budgets and political ideas. I mean, and I am impatient. I am not a process person. I am a vision person. And so I’m just brimming with hope and ideas, and yet, I’m hoping that us talking about it today, maybe it will really inspire people to say, you know what? These are great ideas. And it’s not just about money. It’s about support. It’s about when you’re at church or when you’re at a coffee shop.

I mean, if I overhear people in a restaurant, that are talking about this stuff, I will approach them and say, I’m sorry for overhearing it, but I hear your pain. And I just want you to know. I mean, even in a dentist the other day, somebody asked me what I did. And I said, do you know of anybody, where this might be appropriate? And so even just that, even just being able to refer your own friends to this, I think the more stories and the more people that we’re able to touch and the more opportunities we’re able to tell real stories, my job is to get you where your heart is, to imagine, like you said, I’m a mother. I’m a citizen. I mean, I believe that that’s really what motivates people, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats. We’re parents. We’re neighbors. And this is the Love Show, and I do believe that love is really what keeps us motivated.

Dr. Belisle:                             I’ve been speaking with Paul Golding, who’s the Executive Directory of Family Hope and also with Alexandra Segav, who’s been with Family Hope, since 2017 and as a social worker. I really believe in the work that you’re doing. So I hope that people who are listening are going to ponder how they might be able to help out with this, because I think that this is really the time. And I appreciate all the efforts that you are putting forth.

Alex S.:                                      Thank you so much, Lisa. I so much appreciate it.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by, where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life through free advice, workshops, and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to now to learn about available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Dr. Belisle:                             You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show 342. Our guests have included Quincy Hentzel, Paul Golding, and Alexandra Sagov. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radi” Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter, as Dr. Lisa, and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me, and may you have a bountiful life.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #341: Carol Schoneberg and Anne Heros

Speaker 1:                                 You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios at Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor in chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 341 airing for the first time on Sunday April 1st, 2018. Today we speak Carol Schoneberg who has worked as a hospice educator in Maine for the past 25 years. Anne Heros is the executive director of the Center for Grieving Children, an organization providing support to grieving children, young adults, teenagers and families. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingen Jorgenson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Carol Schoneberg has been a hospice educator in Maine since 1992. She has served as an end of life educator, bereavement services manager and grief counselor at Hospice of Southern Maine, Maine’s only freestanding not for profit hospice since its inception in 2004. Thanks for coming in today.

Carol S.:                                   Happy to be here.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              The work that you do is what many would consider to be difficult and yet it’s your chosen field.

Carol S.:                                   It is.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about that.

Carol S.:                                   Well one of the things I hear often is, “How could you do that? It must be so depressing.” And if I found it depressing, I could never do it and I couldn’t have done it for this long. It’s often sad, but there’s a big difference and it’s very … for me, extremely meaningful. It’s always been good to help me prioritize what I think is important in life and it gives me joy to do this work, which sounds strange to a lot of people.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              How did you make the decision that this would be your focus in your life?

Carol S.:                                   I think it found me. I really feel … I came to feel that it was a calling and I often feel I’m sort of embarrassed to say that. It seems sort of pretentious in a way, but I realize looking back over my life that there were things that happened, starting around five years old and throughout my life that were leading me in this direction. I was always the person in my family, in my circle of friends that for whatever reason was comfortable. It wasn’t something I turned away from. I had a friend in San Francisco when I was in my early 20’s who took his life. He jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and I remember sitting around at the funeral with my friends, my peers, people my age and how stunned we all were, and it was for many of us our first experience with the death of a friend. And there was something about it that really stayed with me in the sense of grief and how people didn’t wanna talk about it.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Why don’t people want to talk about grief?

Carol S.:                                   It’s amazing how many of my clients will tell me they think grief is negative and they don’t wanna talk about something negative. They think dying is negative and part of my role is I hope to be able to help people see that grief is neither positive or negative. It’s grief. It’s a true emotion that is central in our lives. It happens to everybody and it’s painful. So of course we naturally wanna turn away from anything that’s painful and when someone has experienced maybe for the first time, the death of a central person in their life, they have never known a pain like that before.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              When you say that it’s something that brings you joy, tell me a little bit about that, because it’s easy to make assumptions as to how we would all feel in your situation.

Carol S.:                                   Right, right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              But you have your own experience of it.

Carol S.:                                   Right. It’s not joy-like, the joy I felt when I found out when I was gonna have children or the joy I felt when my grandchildren were born. It’s a kind of joy in witnessing … for one thing, witnessing people and the resiliency that we are all capable of as human beings. So when I see a bereavement client who I witnessed them going through their journey and then at a certain point, our time together comes to an end. And then I might run into them in the grocery store or I run into them somewhere and they look full and alive and they’re living their life and I know how deep their grief was and how the things that we tend to say at the beginning of our grief. Things like, “I don’t care if I go on or not. I don’t care if I wake up or not. My life will never be the same.” Which it won’t, that’s a true statement but that doesn’t mean it has to be a pejorative statement and so seeing this capacity for resiliency is I think part of why I do the work. And in working with a family where someone’s dying and meeting with them maybe before they decide to come on to hospice, I sometimes do informational visits for families.

It’s inspiring to meet with a family that is able to speak openly about what’s happening and typically it’s because the patient is willing to go there and so that is very fulfilling to work with that family. And then to see a family where they start off not able to talk about it but it’s still coming, death is still coming. They sign on to hospice and if they have enough time between when they sign on and when the person dies, sometimes there’s a transformation that happens and a family might be able to have healing that they didn’t have before or have conversations that they didn’t have before. And often it’s brought about because the members of the hospice team social worker, the nurses, everyone that’s involved, chaplains, volunteers, they can help in that process of gently guiding someone to a point where they can make that change. So that’s very satisfying and fulfilling to see that happen.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              How does the team help to guide that process?

Carol S.:                                   Well when somebody signs on to hospice, they are saying that they want this interdisciplinary approach to care and it means that they will let a hospice nurse come in, hospice social worker, hospice aid, chaplain, volunteers, and we also have medical directors that work closely with their doctor. So every member of that team is … we like to think of everyone’s on the same level, no ones job is more important than the other and each person as they’re in there working with the patient and family, they are having their impressions of what’s happening. It might be that the patient feels most comfortable with aid and they might really open up to them in maybe a way that they’ve not opened up to their family or to anyone else. And they might talk about their fears or their wishes of what they wish could happen before they die and because everyone on the team is educated, trained on end of life care, they’re tuned in to listening for these that people might say that someone else might miss. So it might be to say, “Tell me more about that.” And then it might be to say, “Is this something you’ve talked with the social worker about because she might be able to help you have these conversations with your family.”

So it’s that kind of everybody working together, everybody having their eyes and ears open and coming together to see how can we better serve this family, how can we help them the most. So there’ve been studies done that have shown that if someone can be on hospice for a minimum of 60 days, that it can make a great difference in the way they die and the way the family’s able to have some possibility of healing and it also makes a difference in their bereavement.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              As someone who has referred patients to hospice before, it is always tricky because there’s no way to accurately determine when someone is going to die. It’s always just a best guess.

Carol S.:                                   Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And it’s un … It’s always … It always feels unfortunate to me when a patient just barely gets into hospice and then they pass away.

Carol S.:                                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Because it feels as if it were a missed opportunity.

Carol S.:                                   Yes, there was when that happens. You know lots of times we get a patient sort of the 11th hour and there’s not a lot that can be done when you get a patient who … maybe you have them the last day of their life. Some people end up at the Gosnell House four hours before they die and often I will hear in bereavement or in a support group or individual grief counseling, “I wish we would’ve come to hospice sooner. I wish we would’ve known about it sooner.” And I would agree with you yes, it’s very hard to prognosticate a terminal illness when somebody … how much time they have left and yet you probably know, it’s the question everybody that’s been told they have a terminal illness, “How much time do I have?” When a hospice nurse gets to the house the first time, “How much time do you think he has?” It’s that piece that most people wanna know, not everybody, some people, “Don’t tell me. I don’t wanna know.”

I’m a big believer that for instance, when somebody is told they have a stage four cancer and I would say cancer is an illness that as a relative term, it’s a bit easier to prognosticate because of the stages and typically what is seen. I would hope we would reach a point some day and I hope it’s while I’m still here to see it when a physician and an oncologist would have that conversation with their patient when their cancer becomes stage four, to introduce hospice, “Here’s what it is, let’s talk about. Would you like to meet with somebody who could tell you about it. You’re not ready for hospice now and I hope it’s going be a long time before you are, but I …” This would be the words of the oncologist, “But I’ve learned that educating about it sooner makes it easier for when the time comes to access it. You’ll already know what it is. You know the difference it can make at the end of life for you and your family.”

So I’d like to see that become routine and I would say to all doctors, if your gut is telling you this person has a prognosis of probably six months or less, or even if you look at this person and you think, “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they’ve died in the coming year.” That’s the time for a hospice referral and use us. Use hospice professionals to help you have language to do that, to be able to have somebody that could come in and talk to that patient, that family if they’re open to it. Once again, that piece of people coming sooner rather than later is really important, very, very important.

The other thing I’m thinking of is there’ve also been some studies done to show the negative impact of over-prognosticating, of giving false hope and the studies point to it is of no benefit and in fact, what I see in my work as a grief counselor, is at least people really angry. If a doctor says, “Because it’s hard to say.”, and maybe they say it because they’re uncomfortable. They say, “Well, I don’t know. It could be two weeks, it could be a year.” So what that family and patient holds on to of course, is the year and then when death comes three weeks later, they are stunned as people are anyhow when they lose someone they love. But they’re angry, they feel lied to and that is a hurdle for them to overcome in their grieving process before they can even begin to focus on their grief.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Because death has for many people, such a negative connotation, it is something that many people feel uncomfortable talking about at all.

Carol S.:                                   Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And even if you are not someone who has a family member in hospice, you may not know what to say to be supportive of a family that’s dealing with the possibility of loss. What type of language do you suggest that people use? What are things that can be said that individuals or families might find helpful?

Carol S.:                                   So if I heard you correctly, you’re talking about the person who maybe they have a friend or a family member or somebody who-

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yeah.

Carol S.:                                   They’ve heard is terminally ill. The thing that we all … that I hope people will do is to say something to acknowledge in some way. For people who are facing the end of their life, one of the common things they feel is a sense of abandonment by … often by the medical community and by the people who love them, who they are hoping will check in or be around. It might be to say, “I don’t really know what to say or do, but I know that I wanna support you and I wanna be with you.” That’s a huge thing. It might be to say, “Is there something I could do to help you at this time?” Depending on where the person is in their dying process, if they’re on hospice, it might to say, “Are there … Is there a project that I could do to help you to complete that might be meaningful for you?” Not to be afraid, which is hard to do to talk about it, because we talk about death, doesn’t make it come any sooner and that’s often what I … when I’m doing education in the community about hospice, that’s what I’ll say. When I’m meeting with a new hospice family, I always say that.

It’s about being present to someone, much more than any clever words we might say and there are ways that we let somebody know that we’re present with them. It might be a touch, it might be a hug if they want it and just to say, “I’m gonna … I’ll be here for you throughout this journey, however long it may be.”

Dr. Lisa B.:                              There are for some people unresolved issues.

Carol S.:                                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I guess you’re laughing and smiling ’cause maybe it’s all people have some level of unresolved issue.

Carol S.:                                   I think so. I do. Some people very little. Some people, they live their life in that wonderful way of saying what they feel in the moment and saying I love you and saying I’m sorry when they’re sorry, doing those things as they go through life, and they’re just maybe a family where they’re just more open. We say in the hospice the easy part is dealing with the body, the physical body, the pain and symptoms that we … our hospice people are very skilled at. The difficult part is typically family dynamics. If you have five adult children, rarely are all five on the same page. They have five different relationships to the one who’s dying, they don’t all have the same relationship. Some may have a particular ease in being present to death, others not at all. Some wanna talk about it, some don’t and every bit of that family’s dynamics from day one, are gonna carry into the dying process. We say in hospice we tend to die the way we’ve lived, which is what we see. Somebody who’s been open and shares everything, they’re gonna be open and sharing they’re dying, talking about how they’re feeling, and the opposite is true and the same is true of grief. We only are who we are. We can only manifest in general, unless we have a transformation in that way.

So that family dynamics piece is really tough and that’s where hospice can be very helpful as well. Hospice doesn’t come in and tell people what to do or what to feel, but once again, that sense of is there that something that can be done to help people be able to heal their relationships before they die. Sometimes it happens and it’s very wonderful. Sometimes it happens 10 minutes before death. Sometimes it takes place over the weeks and months and sometimes it never happens. We have had patients who might have a loved one who they’ve been estranged from, maybe an adult child estranged 20, 30 years and as the social worker is exploring this piece of their story, they might ask them, “Would you like me to try to locate your daughter?” And typically the person that says this is what I’m struggling with will say, “Yes.” They might not, but often they say yes, and sometimes the team is able to track down, locate the person with the help of the internet and everything else we have today and sometimes the person is … when they’re called and said, “Your mother has given us permission to call. She’s a hospice patient. She’s very near the end of her life and she would very much like to see you.”

Sometimes the person says no, just … and it’s not ours to judge. Whatever the wounds were may be too great for that person to be able to overcome and some people have said yes and have come from great distances. Had a kind of reconciliation and healing and very soon after that, maybe within minutes or hours, days, the person lets go and they can die peacefully.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Is there a difference between the way that younger people in … who are dying in hospice and older people who are dying in hospice experience that process?

Carol S.:                                   In some ways no, in that it’s more about our type and nature than it is our age. So I see some people who are in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s who are able to touch everyone around them, inspire everyone around them as they go through their dying, and I see younger people who are able to do that and those who may not be able to. One of the things when we have a younger patient and we don’t have pediatric hospice, so our patients are generally over the age of 18. We have very, very over our 10 years of the hospice house being open, the Gosnell House in Scarborough, very few, handful of patients I would say in their 20’s and of course, what we see more often with a young patient, is often their parents are living. So that’s a loss that any parent hopes they never have to hear about or deal with and as staff, it has a different impact when there’s a mother or father who is … they are in that room with a person who’s dying, and of course, we witness it in the home as well. So I don’t know if that responds exactly to your question, but those are some of the things we see regarding the ages of people who are dying.

There’s always the person who’s dying, who their approach because it’s their nature is why me and then there’s the person who’s dying who says, “Why not me? It’s gonna happen some day.” So neither one of those approaches is right or wrong but it is definitely a very powerful rich experience as a hospice worker with that person who is why not me, and also who is able to share their dying process. That’s how we learn, I certainly learned most of what I feel I know or understand through the people I’ve worked with.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Have you found that people are very similar in the way that they die or that they are very different in the way that they die?

Carol S.:                                   I think they’re quite different. Some of the deaths we see are very peaceful, very quiet. A person might just sort of slowly shut down and obviously this type of a death is really relative term easy, but it is the least painful in a way for a family to witness and watch. We all hope for a peaceful death for ourselves, for the people we love. Some people have what I would think of as a more traumatic dying experience based on their illness. They might have more things that as the body gets near death, whether it’s more symptoms that manifest, some symptoms that might be very distressing for a family to witness. Hospice does everything it can to help manage and control those symptoms. The nurse will also help prepare a family if they have a particular type, lets say of cancer that this could occur, so that they might not be as shocked. We see people who are fighting death until their last breath I would say and people who have made peace and have if will, acquiesce to death. We see people who might have a smile on their face when they die, who look beautiful and peaceful. They might even have a glow and others that have been a much harder death.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What do you think it is that people fear most about dying? I-

Carol S.:                                   Fear of the unknown.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              That’s pretty straightforward.

Carol S.:                                   That’s … If I had to just … If I just had to reduce it to one sentence. There’s a difference too between fear and sadness. I think the fear … Largely, I always think of Woody Allen who said, “I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t wanna be there when it happens.” And I think there’s so much truth to that. Many people, if I have an opportunity to ask them, “What’s the scariest part about all of this for you?” Typically, what people say is fear of dying in pain, fear of dying alone and fear of being a burden to the people I love. Those are the kinda universal pieces that people talk about with fear. The other thing that a dying person is … once they get that terminal diagnosis, no matter how much time they have left that I find people wrestle with is sadness of leaving behind the people they love. It always comes down to that and people who might say, “I can do this, but I can’t imagine leaving my children.”

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Are there ways that hospice supports families once an individual has died?

Carol S.:                                   Yes. Hospice … One of the things that distinguishes hospice care from a regular medical model of care is the families, the unit of care. So we very much are there to provide care and support to the patient and the family. After the patient dies, we provide bereavement support to the family, anyone who wants it in the family for one year following a death. It’s part of the Medicare guidelines and regulations. So any hospice program in the country is required to offer bereavement support. What that support looks like varies widely from program to program. We’re very proud of our bereavement program in that we offer individual grief counseling during that year. We have between eight and ten, eight week support groups every year that are run for an hour and a half each week for eight weeks. They’re generic groups, so anyone over the age of 18 who has lost a central person in their life can attend. It’s open to the community as well and our individual grief counseling is open to the community as well. So it’s no cost.

Sometimes a doctor’s office will call me and say, “I met with one of my patients today and his wife died some months ago and he was crying and is really struggling with that, somebody that you could see.” And then yes, we will and we do. Not everybody wants bereavement support. We also … Part of our services are we do a monthly mailing with some bereavement literature that we mail every other month and with that packet, they also get notices of all the groups that are happening. When I was saying not everyone wants … formalized professional support, we know that around 40 to 50% of people will heal well on their own and typically it’s the person who has a strong support system, really important. You might be connected, family, friends, workplace, faith community and somebody who is the person who tends to approach their grief rather than avoid it.

And there are people that … A very small percentage of people might end up having what we call a complicated grief, where they might be best served working with someone who specialized just in complicated grief to help them be able to … It’s a … I think a simple way of thinking of it is somebody who is … gets extremely stuck in their grief process and isn’t able to really begin to move forward in their grief, and in my view, our grief doesn’t go anywhere. It just hangs out, whether it’s for a few months or 50 years, an unreconciled grief or a grief that one isn’t able to actually mourn, does not diminish and it has a really negative impact on our lives. I think of it as kind of a life half lived.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’ve learned a lot from our conversation today and I appreciate your coming in and sharing your insights and also all the work that you have been doing for decades. Really … I’ve been speaking with Carol Schoneberg who has been a hospice educator in Maine since 1992. She has served as an end of life educator, bereavement services manager and grief counselor at Hospice of Southern Maine, Maine’s only freestanding, not for profit hospice since its inception in 2004. Thanks for coming in today.

Carol S.:                                   You’re welcome.

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Dr. Lisa B.:                              Anne Heros serves as the executive director of the Center for Grieving Children, an organization that serves grieving children, teenagers, families and young adults with peer support, outreach and education. Thank you for coming in again.

Anne Heros:                          Thank you. Good to be here.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve now been doing this for … I guess this is your 31st year. Right? With the Center for-

Anne Heros:                          The center’s 31st year.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yes.

Anne Heros:                          They started in 89 … or sorry, 87. I’m thinking of when I came to the United States. Sorry, 87 is when the center started and our founder, Bill Hemmens started it because in his own life, his only sister who was a single mom, she was 39 and was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she had a nine year old daughter. So when his sister died, he was devastated himself, with less trying to support his niece and he looked around Portland at that time and there were some groups for adults. There was nothing for children and he thought this was a real need and around the same time he saw something, I believe it was on 20/20 that just listed this new place that had opened out in Portland, Oregon called The Dougy Center. And he thought, “That’s what we need here in Portland.” And he was a stock broker, so he [inaudible 00:33:54] his job, tapped into his savings, went over there to see what they were doing and then came back and adjusted what he had seen and created his own center. We were the third in the U.S., so he made a really special effort to the model.

It was very important to him that the model was a family model, which again given that time back then Kübler-Ross was only beginning to write about grief. There was hardly anything getting written about children or even the acknowledgment that children grieved. So this was very important to him that it would be a family model, where the whole family could come. But also what was important was the fact that it would be facilitated. These groups, which are age appropriate would be facilitated by people from the community, who had gotten through a 30 plus hour training and then they themselves, volunteered would be supported by staff and clinical consultants and all of that to make sure that this was … as I said, it was a test back then. Obviously now, going on 31 years later, a lot more has been written to in turn … actually confirm that this approach does work. So he had a great vision.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You are originally from Ireland.

Anne Heros:                          Correct.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Do they have things like this back there?

Anne Heros:                          I was not … Again, you don’t really think about that at that time back then. I mean now they do, but it’s not done the way … What I’m involved in is a very different kind of model. There and in some other countries, it either is a church related type model, but not something that’s done by volunteers and it may be a clinical model, but nothing to the same degree as what I’m … what we’re involved in here. So it’s … I think what we have here in the United States is pretty special. As I said, we were the third and there’s now over 300 in those 31, so.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What is the benefit of involving community members?

Anne Heros:                          Well it is … It’s … To me, ’cause I’m somebody who actually also benefited from attending the center, it is … The fact that it is other people from the community, it is like a gift of unconditional love that’s the gift from like what I would see from being an adult and being aware of being the facilitators in my group. But the other magic is the fact that it is peers. You’re gonna have other people in your group who are your same age and therefore you’re breaking down the walls of isolation, you’re helping children to see that they are not alone. There are others experiencing the same kind of situation and that there’s hope. There’s other people there and they seem to be doing okay. I mean our program is a year round program. So you could be the newest child in the group but then you could also be aware of another child who’s there a couple of months. So it is … It’s giving you that sense that wow, each day … This … I’m going to be okay and I think that’s pretty special.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You benefited from this because of your daughter’s death.

Anne Heros:                          Correct. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And it seems as though it would be hard to know when one is grieving something that large, when or how to reach out for some people.

Anne Heros:                          Well I think that’s where awareness of our existence is very important. For me, I became aware of the center because they actually responded to the school because it was a sudden death and that’s how I became aware that they existed. And then also, there was somebody in the school who actually volunteered at the center and I volunteered in the office of the school. I guess I had an ulterior motive because I wanted to keep an eye on my kids and you know, ’cause you are very protective at … particularly at very pivotal times like this. You are overly protective and so I got to know her and she told me more about the center and so it kinda was there in my mind that in a way, even though I’d had a lot of education behind me around children, ’cause I was in education back in Ireland. But this aspect of a child’s life, how could you make it through and also for me, as a parent, how could you make it through and be a healthy parent to parent these kids going forward.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Your daughter was 12?

Anne Heros:                          She was 10-

Dr. Lisa B.:                              10.

Anne Heros:                          And it was a sudden virus that attacked her. We did not realize that she was sick. We thought she had a stomach virus, so.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And she had … has siblings.

Anne Heros:                          Yes. She had two brothers. She was the middle child, she was 10. Her brother was 11 going on 12 and her youngest one was eight. So she was … We used to joke and say she was the Oreo or the white part in the cookie. You know what I mean? She just was the glue, she really was.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              So I also wonder, it would be devastating enough I imagine to lose a child, but then to continue to have to parent your other children.

Anne Heros:                          Absolutely. It was a double edged sword in the sense that you really just wanted to curl up in bed and pull the covers over your head and come back out a month ahead. But you didn’t have that luxury when you have got children to parent and in that sense, there was a bit of a saving grace in it too, that I had that … that demand on me. I think the other thing for me was the fact that I was only here two years from Ireland. So I didn’t really … I hadn’t really built up that network yet of friends and obviously no family and whatever. So being able to reach out and find a place like this really helped me, but I mean again, they were boys. So again, a little different but for me, it was a case of well you know what? This is did not come with a rule book. It’s there, I’ll try it because having as they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I knew that this was a … as they’re calling it now, an adverse childhood experience and to make … And having moved to a new country to … So you take these experiences that children experience throughout their lives and some of them can be very, very traumatic and it can severely impact the development of that child. So I was very aware of that and so I knew … I became a voracious reader to learn all that I could about how kids experienced this and as I said, there wasn’t a lot written, but the little bit that was out there, I managed to access. And actually somebody from the community, what she did was she actually went to the library and got about six books and took them out and brought them and dropped them off and just left them there. But the challenge at that time is my ability to concentrate in those very early days, was very small. So really articles were something that I could really just concentrate on for a short moment of time and get some information from them, and I … There were some important pieces that I gleaned back then and one of them was children saying how a bereaved parent kind of idolizes the one that has died and the two are … the ones that are left behind are kind of relegated.

So that was something that I wanted to make sure, as much as possible was not going to be felt by the kids and also that you didn’t become overly protective and not let them experience their childhood. And I have particular, kind of moments when that piece that I picked up kind of came back to me in very … in front of me in the sense … The first time was when my oldest boy got his driving license and he’s driving off in the car with his brother and it’s kinda like I’m standing there looking at my future just driving away in a car and it’s like, oh my goodness. But again, you gotta hold back on that. The other one was when my older one came home from college and said he wanted to join the marines and I thought oh, wow. Talk about wanting to hold yourself back and not want wrap them [inaudible 00:43:56]. But those were important things for me to know that you had to release and let your children experience the world in spite of the fact that it seems like your world has fallen apart and how do you start to build some comfort and some assurity around what’s going to happen, which I mean in the big picture, you have no control over. But in your naïve way as you’re parenting, you think you can control it all, at least I thought anyway.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’m … One of the things that I over the years have become interested in as a doctor is that we never really let go of grief completely. I mean someone who was in our life that we lose is always with us in some capacity.

Anne Heros:                          Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And the more years I have been a doctor, the more I’ve seen that this … it goes on for decades, maybe forever.

Anne Heros:                          It does. It does and I think that’s what’s becoming … people are beginning to get that message now, which is good because again, going back to Kübler-Ross, she said there were four or five stages in grief and people … I think maybe naively, we wanted to think well, five stages and you were done and it was wrapped up in a bow and that was it and of course it’s not. Of course, it’s not.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And not everybody goes through the stages-

Anne Heros:                          No.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Not only at the same pace, but in the same order perhaps.

Anne Heros:                          No, not at all.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And it makes it difficult I think for people who are trying to be helpful-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              To know what to say or how to act.

Anne Heros:                          Right. Right. And again, going back to the work at the center, what we train our facilitators in is how to be reflective listeners, because really it’s about getting your voice back. It’s about hearing yourself think in a way and having another person reflected back. It may not be the facilitator that reflects it back, but it could be another participant in the group and that is so helpful. I know from the … Sometimes it felt like you could be going crazy. Right? So that can have its own aspect to it and how do normalize to a degree, something that’s happening to you and that it will be okay by certain supportive factors that are going to help you heal. Whether it is physically, making sure you’re going to your doctor and you’re staying healthy and you’re getting that input and doing all the right things for your body. Two, whether it is one on one counseling for awhile or in our case, you come to a group setting and experience meeting other people who are walking the walk. So you need to look at all of these aspects. We do a piece on quadrants, what about your physical, your emotional, your spiritual health, those are all aspects of an individual.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It has … It was just occurring to me, me sitting here now, maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but in a sense you can be a grieving child really at any age.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It is your … I believe your inner child that is the most impacted by loss.

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And I have spoken to adults who’ve told me that they’ve benefited from going to the Center for Grieving Children because they lost a parent at an early age-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Or a sibling at an early age and they were adults-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              That went to the center.

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              So it’s interesting that you are absolutely serving an entire spectrum of physical ages, but you’re still dealing with the emotional impact on the inner child.

Anne Heros:                          Yes and particularly our volunteers, I think are the ones who would speak to that because people will say, “Oh, to be a volunteer do I have to have experience at death in my life?” You know, part of your life and we kinda say, “No. There are different things that can happen to you in your life that will impact your emotional well being.” And so that’s kind of a hidden gift I think that happens at the center and probably part of the reason our volunteers stay for a long period of time, is that is what they’re getting from that, because they wish the center would’ve been there when they’d had that experience. So it’s an inner part of all that’s happening at the center. I mean for us, our groups are as I said, a family model but what … As we were working through the years, the children’s grief journey happens in age developmental stages, but the adults experience it differently. They’re in this timeline and so when the children were ready to leave the center, the adults were saying, “Oh, I really still could do with a group.”

So as the center got more … I guess sustained in its work and its support, it started adding extra adult groups and also at that time, research was showing the better the adult does, the better the child does. So even though we might’ve added a bereave parents group or a widow/widower’s partners group, we were still indirectly helping children.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I have a patient who is a writer and puts things out on his blog. So I feel comfortable talking about his grief because he’s very open about it. He’s an older gentleman and his child died I believe when she was in her late teens and she would’ve been my age, which was something that struck him-

Anne Heros:                          Of course. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I believe within the last year or so, that this wasn’t a child that was still whatever age she was.

Anne Heros:                          Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is an entire life that had been lost.

Anne Heros:                          Exactly. Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And as a writer, he’s been able to process this.

Anne Heros:                          Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              One of the things that has come up … So that’s sort of one thing and I’m guessing you might have had similar thoughts on that because your daughter is my sister’s age.

Anne Heros:                          Exactly. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              They knew each other at Yarmouth.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              So there’s that piece.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And then there’s also, which is a second piece, the fact that men and women even process death differently. As a father, I think he processed death differently than his then wife. What are your thoughts?

Anne Heros:                          Yes. You have … I try to explain to people that … that horrific pain that you have in the beginning subsides, it gets easier. It gets easier and then there are … A long period of time, you might not think about it at all as having happened to you, but then something in a life event, an incident of some kind and the flash comes back. Whether it is the day my son was getting married or then you’re … my daughter’s best friend getting married, that was a hard day for me because again you’re thinking, “Wow. That’s a life event I will not experience with her.” And then the same when my son had his first child, which turned out to be a girl.

So those are things that … yes, but they don’t bring you down. They don’t bring you back to where you were, at least I feel that’s because I’ve done so much work and I guess embrace sounds like you welcomed it. I’d trade places in the morning but it’s all the time processing. You’re a human being, you are a process. You cannot stand still. You’re not a … You’re just gonna experience these things and some people … it will bring them back to a … Maybe it will be the thing that will pull the rug from under them and so therefore then they need to get the support and that’s part of the reason the center does outreach to schools, because we’re asking teachers on the frontline to help these students. To do something for these students that in turn might trigger in their lives, something that happened and there, they’ve got to function and be there and support the kids and yet inside, this flashback is happening for them for their own loss. So that’s why we also behind the scenes try to … want to support the teachers ’cause they’re the ones who are going to be there day in and day out to work with the students.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And is there a difference between the way that men and women process grief? Is it-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Can you easily go along gender lines or is it just every individual is different?

Anne Heros:                          I think there’s definitely an individual part of it but I think there’s different permissions that are given to the genders. For men, there is that piece about crying makes you look vulnerable, being in touch with your feelings, you’re expected to be strong. The old sayings of, “Well now you’re the man of the house.”, when the father dies and mom is left behind. What a ridiculous thing to say to a 10 year old boy and mom is 30 something or 40, and now to the 10 year old, you’re the man of the house. So those are unfair expectations that are put there. The girls on the other side of it are kinda give that permission to cry and probably do experience more … Their feelings are very much I think to the forefront in a lot of cases, but then there’s other things that they’re not given permission to … like to be angry, to be physical.

That’s why we at the center have a … we have a room where you can be rambunctious and be safe and being physical, whatever that might be. That’s an important thing too for a girl to have ’cause these are all things that are healthy for your body, but they have to be done in a safe way. And we will have male volunteers at the center who will say, “I was … Everything was taken away. We were not allowed to talk about it.” The same was happening for girls too. Thankfully, nowadays we’re trying to educate and help people understand … I know we had one experience where this volunteer having gone through our training, started to reflect on the death of his own mom and how his dad kind of managed to … or didn’t manage to kind of parent the family and how it created a fracture really in their relationship later, and so he hadn’t seen his dad in a long time. So having gone through the training, there was that light bulb that went on that had him think, “I need to go back.” And so he booked a flight to go visit his father and so there was that reconnection, because he began to see it from his father’s side and his father trying to do the best. So that was a nice story to hear.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Anything that you would like our listeners to know about the Center for Grieving children, anything that you think is particularly interesting or that you’d like to share?

Anne Heros:                          I think sometimes when people hear the name, Grieving Children, that they think it’s a sad place and that is not … Yes, what brings people there can be sad but children in a lot of cases experience for the first time, it’s okay to be happy again because when there’s so much sadness in a house, how can you be happy again, how can you … By coming to the center, there’s also opportunities to have those conversations and I think the other piece is that we provide a lot of services. So I encourage people to go to our website and see all the work that we do, because I think that’s one of the pieces people will say to me, “Wow, I didn’t know that you did so much.” And I think one of the other pieces is that we are there, okay, we’re not there 24/7, but we are there either on the phone or on the website to answer your questions and help you. There’s an awful lot of work that we do that does not mean you actually physically come inside the walls of the center, but we do a lot of work with a lot of different kinds of populations. We have a big refugee and immigrant program. We have a tender living care program, where we work with families who are dealing with a life threatening illness, and then of course, there’s our bereavement program.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I appreciate all the work that you’ve done-

Anne Heros:                          Thank you.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Over the last several decades now.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It must be a little hard to believe.

Anne Heros:                          It is hard to believe actually that there’s more behind me than there is ahead of me.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Well I’m glad you’re still here.

Anne Heros:                          Me too!

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I hope you still got a few decades ahead of you still. I’ve been speaking with Anne Heros, who serves as the executive director of the Center for Grieving Children, an organization that serves grieving children, teenagers, families and young adults with peer support, outreach and education. Thank you so much.

Anne Heros:                          Thank you.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 341. Our guests have included Carol Schoneberg and Anne Heros. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows, also let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are happy that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee. Our editorial producer is Kate Gardner. Our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy and our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #340: Marshall Taylor and Paul Cousins

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor and chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 340 airing for the first time on Sunday, March 25, 2018. Today we speak with Marshall Taylor, artistic director of Quisisana Resort. We also speak with meteorologist Paul Cousins who is the founder, principal, and CFO at Atmos Forecast. He has been analyzing weather in the northeastern United States for more than 40 years. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in it’s newly expanded space including Inken Georgonson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Marshall Taylor is the artistic director at Quisisana Resort, a summer resort in western Maine that specializes in musical entertainment. Thanks for coming in today.

Marshall Taylor:                Good morning.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You actually had a little bit of a journey to make it in to visit with us.

Marshall Taylor:                About an hour and a half on 302.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s a strong hour and half. You can’t rush that.

Marshall Taylor:                It depends who you get behind. It wasn’t too bad this morning.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’re not originally … You don’t live in Maine full time.

Marshall Taylor:                I wasn’t gonna tell.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  We consider you a Mainer anyway because you’ve been coming here for how many years?

Marshall Taylor:                It’s been almost 30 and I feel like a Mainer, certainly all summer long. I’ve been here four months of the year for 30 years, so you do the math. That’s a few years.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I think we’ll count it.

Marshall Taylor:                But I’ve never seen the winter. I think that’s what makes me a damned out of stater.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I guess, although, you live in New York.

Marshall Taylor:                I do, I do.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You get winter down there too.

Marshall Taylor:                I see your snowfall up here and I get a little jealous.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You originally are not from New York.

Marshall Taylor:                No.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’re originally from a snowier place.

Marshall Taylor:                Wisconsin, farm country.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s probably smart of you not to move up to Maine full time because you know what the snow is like.

Marshall Taylor:                I think I would like to try it once.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Anytime you want, we’re here.

Marshall Taylor:                Thanks. Thanks.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You know where to reach us.

Marshall Taylor:                I’m glad I’m welcome. Thanks.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Tell me about the resort. It’s a very unique place.

Marshall Taylor:                It’s a very old … it’s a throw back. Our guests come and stay a week and they’ve probably been doing it many, many years. Some of our 10 years guests consider themselves as newbies. A lot of people come as children and grow up and bring their own children. They come a week, they stay the same week, they sit at the same table, they stay in the same cottage. It’s a bit of a home away from home. They can pretend they’re Mainer’s too I guess. Every night we have entertainment. That’s really my area of involvement. I hire the staff, I audition them, and I put together the shows. But, they all work jobs too so I sort of have my finger in the dining room and the maintenance department, the dishwashers. All those people are performers. I find myself overseeing that too, but you asked about the resort, not about me.

It’s on a beautiful lake, Lake Kezar is one of those fortunately still very clean, clear bodies of water. It’s in the mountains, almost New Hampshire. We’re Steven King’s neighbor. We have great food. What else? The entertainment is often surprising. Here I get back to my own area, but I think the guests who come are surprised at the quality. A lot of our kids have either been on Broadway or find themselves working fairly soon after they’ve been with us, which is a blessing. I often worry how will we find a cast to top the last year’s cast. Fortunately, it’s never been a problem.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When we went out to visit, it was really wonderful to be talking to a very pleasant member of the wait staff who brought over some sort of blueberry dessert and then not too long after see them up on stage doing incredible things musically and theatrically.

Marshall Taylor:                They can really turn it on. You imagine how pleasant they are, that is key. They’re a family for themselves and for the week that the weeks are there, the guests are part of that family as well. It really does extend beyond the service relationship. Once they step on stage, it’s kind of unforgettable. For little people, young people, it makes it even more exciting when they see their friend, their buddy up there singing an opera or something they never dreamt they’d want to see.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  That was something that did surprise me was the opera piece. You’re not just doing Broadway show tunes, which is also great. You’re doing really a full spectrum of I guess we’ll call it entertainment.

Marshall Taylor:                The opera is more traditional to the resort. The Broadway is the part that’s grown. That’s the new kid in town. The original owner, Ralph Burg, had a music store in Boston and his friends were classically trained musicians and they would come up and entertain. There was a long heritage of opera and art song, a lot of Boston Conservatory students and alumni would come. As times have changed a bit and we’ve gotten our productions to be a bit more lavish, I use that word lightly, the Broadway part is new, but I remain committed to the opera. I have that background myself. I love to introduce people to that.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  The day we were there, there was … I think it was interesting because 207 was out taping, our local TV show. You had brought in different people to represent different types of work that are done throughout the week. There was a couple that had partnered together to sing opera and I could’ve been in Boston. I could’ve been in New York listening to the highest caliber performance and it was in this nice little lodge on the shores of the lake.

Marshall Taylor:                Right. We were very lucky to get that couple. They came as a package deal. Jeremy, the tenor, had worked for us last year and did the tenor lead in Carmen. He met Samantha and she wanted to come back this summer. We were thrilled to have them. Their home is New Jersey, so I was going to say you might have even been in New Jersey hearing that opera. It’s nice to have people of that age level too. Younger singers, college age kids are just not as developed. They’re wonderful, but we’ve sort of found a niche of young, emerging performers who are beyond college and beyond the young artist programs. They also need to have experience and make some money.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  The way that I understand that it works that throughout the course of the season, you are offering a different type of performance every night-

Marshall Taylor:                Every night.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Of the week. The beginning if the season, you start the practicing and the performing of a certain performance say on a Monday. By the end of the season, you’re still performing that same thing on a Monday.

Marshall Taylor:                Every Monday. We’re a repertory. Every Monday night is our musical. Every Tuesday is our piano concert. Our opera night is Wednesday. We have about 10 days of rehearsal before our first guests come. Those are crazy days. We have to get the resort ready, so everyone is working their day job until 10:15 when they have to run to rehearsal and learn some choreography or some French aria. Then they have lunch and they are back to twigging and raking until their next rehearsal is scheduled or costume fitting or whatever is on the docket for the day.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  In addition to being the artistic director, you actually have other multiple day jobs. You run the gift shop.

Marshall Taylor:                I have a little gift shop. I do all the things that an artistic director might do. I’m not a designer, but I have my hand in the cabins and picking the fabrics. I worked with owner of Court and Honor for a long time on trying to upgrade the cabins before I was artistic director. I’ve sort of kept that in my bag of tricks as I’ve gone on.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When we had lunch with the current owner, she told us you spent a significant amount of time buying for the gift shop-

Marshall Taylor:                That’s the great fun.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Down in New York.

Marshall Taylor:                That’s the great fun. Winter is my slow season and I can scout out things and shops and I go to gift shows. There’s a New England made show that is in the spring up here. At this time in the year, it’s down in mass. I may go down to that because I do like to have local artists represented. It’s a luxury to have that kind of time because the store is only open for 10 weeks. I’m not in it year round like some shop keepers have to be.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When you were growing up in Wisconsin, did you ever think that this would be your job and your life? It seems like a pretty nice combination of things that enable you to do things that you love.

Marshall Taylor:                When you grow up and you want to be a performer, there are so few pictures of what success are. You imagine yourself as a big star or working on Broadway. I think originally wanted to be a country singer, but I’ll let that go for now. No, I didn’t image this and I can’t imagine a better balance for myself because I do get to do a lot of things. I run the payroll. That doesn’t fit with an artistic profile in any way in my estimation, but I love to do it and I love to interview the kids and hire them. I love the guests. I spent a lot of time, a lot of the days during the season are just spent listening and talking with them and finding out what their year has been like and keeping them in the family and letting them know what the new kids are up to and what their backgrounds are in case that would spark an interest. It’s a great fit for me. I guess I have a short attention span.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Family is very important to you, because the current owners of the resort are a family.

Marshall Taylor:                They are a family. They are the Orans family. I am not an Orans, but family are the friends you make along the way. They’ve adopted me few years after I started there. I felt very much a part of the family. Jane has one son who works there fully, but most of the guests assume I’m her son as well. It’s a family.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s an incredible thing to think about her story because she was a young woman when her husband died and she had children. This resort that they had been coming to up here in Maine and she was a preschool teacher.

Marshall Taylor:                She had no experience at all. What I had never realized when I busboy there all those years ago was how frightened she was. She had been doing it just a few years and really didn’t seem to think she knew what she was doing. From my point of view, she had all the answers. She was very firm about her opinions. She started out with several partners and little but little, they fell to the side and she emerged as the one. It became her life when she needed it most and it kept her going and she kept it going as well. The place wouldn’t be there without her. It’s a bittersweet time of year because it was right after their week at Quisisana, the last week of August when he went home and her husband died very shortly thereafter. The summer ending brings a lot of feelings for her I’m sure.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  She’s a pretty strong lady.

Marshall Taylor:                Yeah, refiner’s fire. She’s had to struggle through a lot, but she’s always able to keep giving. She doesn’t take anything for granted and she loves the staff. She is so concerned about their experience for the summer. In her mind, it’s a lot like going to summer camp even though their working. She wants them to make the most of it and have a personally great summer. Each year, she manages to make it even a better experience for them. The living conditions are better, the work is probably a little less hard, the money is better. Each year, we sort of have a better group who are more cohesive and can foster each other in a better way. That’s all her doing. She’s made that the priority.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You go to various places around the country to find the people who work at the resort with you. Most of these places are places that you actually have a personal connection to.

Marshall Taylor:                It’s true. I go back to my alma maters. It’s nice to have a connection at a school, so I can find out a bit more about each student that I hire. That’s not saying I won’t hire someone that I can’t investigate that way, but it’s a great advantage when I can speak to their teachers as my colleagues and friends. I also go to schools where some of our alumni have gone on to teach, which is great. They’re at great schools, Cincinnati Conservatory, it’s very nice. My alma maters are so illustrious, but I’m loyal.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What do you look for in a performer when you’re auditioning for someone to come who’s really going to play, again, multiple roles. Maybe they’re raking up the water front or maybe they’re life guarding or maybe they’re wait staff, but they’re also going to be singing opera or performing Broadway, show tunes or … What do you look for?

Marshall Taylor:                You have to see the talent first, otherwise, the door isn’t open at all. Close behind the talent is the person. They have to be flexible. They can’t take themselves too seriously. Obviously, they have to be very friendly. Somehow I’ve developed a sense … I’m not always right, but I do manage to get a lot of kids who are pretty perfect for us. That sounds like I’m full of it, but either they come to Quisisana with a great attitude or it’s in the atmosphere and that’s set by their peers. Everyone knows that they’re not above picking up trash or picking up sticks or washing dishes. There’s no job that is too low. There were many years when she and I cleaned cabins together and she insisted on doing the bathrooms. She said that was her department. When the management or when the owner is setting a tone like that, it’s hard for the staff not to pick up on. In auditions, I find myself trying to picture this person who is probably dressed to the nines because it’s an audition. Kinda picture them in a uniform or kinda picture them with a rake or worse. I am looking for all of that, but if they don’t have the talent, we never even get to that step.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I don’t want to make Jane uncomfortable or out her in any way, but she’s got some years.

Marshall Taylor:                81. She’ll be 82 very shortly.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When we were out there and she said, “Hey, hop on this golf cart and I’ll show you around,” it was impressive because she was taking her time out of her busy schedule and driving us all around and showing us the place. She was a pretty funny lady.

Marshall Taylor:                She’s very funny. I think the Boston Globe referred to her as a salty whit or something like that. I’m just glad you were in her golf cart and not her car. That can get scary.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  she didn’t offer us that. She did say she was stealing the golf cart I think from her granddaughter.

Marshall Taylor:                Right, that makes sense.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s not normally her golf cart to show us around.

Marshall Taylor:                She loves to show the place off. It’s her baby; she’s created it. Even though it has a long tradition, I think anyone would admit that she’s had a huge impact. The lake in the mountains, she won’t take credit for, but everything else, she’s-

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I know her son and her daughter-in-law are there, along with you, full time for the entire summer.

Marshall Taylor:                Right. They are indeed. It’s her life. I don’t know what she’d do in the morning. Even 12 months of the year, she wakes up thinking Quisisana. The office in the winter is in her home outside of New York City. The phone rings and it’s, “Good morning. Quisisana,” every day of her life. It takes that kind of dedication I guess, any family business. I’m not sure how many others would have stuck it out because I don’t think there’s much money coming in, not as much as goes out.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It really is a labor of love.

Marshall Taylor:                It is, yeah. Yeah. She said, “I don’t buy jewelry. I don’t buy fancy clothes. This is my hobby.”

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Her son and her daughter-in-law actually met there.

Marshall Taylor:                Yes, Natalie started as a soprano. She’s still a soprano. In the early mid-90s and her first job was in the office. She was a bubbly little thing in college at Hartford, Connecticut, in their school of music and an opera singer. Although, at her age, she found herself mostly in the musical theater stuff for a while. She and Sam hit it off right away. They had a long engagement. I believe in 2000, they got married at the end of the summer at Quisisana and now have two great kids.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  One of the things that I think is really nice about the location of the resort is the sense of openness and also this lack of wireless access. You go there and your phone probably isn’t going to work. You can get onto the internet, but you have to go to the main lodge.

Marshall Taylor:                You have to seek it out.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s only a few places.

Marshall Taylor:                Right. Even then, I would say it’s not the world’s fastest system. I think when cell phones were new, it seemed just awful to everyone that they couldn’t get on their cell phone and call out. We’re going so far in the direction that you can’t hide anywhere, that it feels better and better as the years go by to find a place where you can unplug for real. There’s no TV. There’s a TV in the lodge, but there’s no TV in the cabins. There are no telephones in the cabins. The last thing you want to do is hear somebody standing next to you who are having one of those loud conversations. We’re lucky we don’t have to make the announcements before the shows, “Make sure your cell phones are turned off.”

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  In fact, I think it was only pretty recently that you even had air conditioning.

Marshall Taylor:                That’s very true. The nights used to be cooler I’m afraid. At some point after watching somebody walking on stage sweating, they decided to put an air conditioning in … At first, it was the public areas, the dining room, the theater area. Then one year Sam just said we’ve gotta put it in all the cabins. The only downside is people close their windows and night and don’t hear the loons. They often say to me, “I don’t hear the loons anymore. What’s happened?” They’re still there.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It also used to be that people would bring their boats to the edge of the water.

Marshall Taylor:                Right, we do close the windows in the hall now and we’ve lost part of our public audience. It was quite a tradition. You knew which people loved which kind of music because you’d see their boats out there every night. That was a real sight. If it got boring, you knew when they left.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  After you’d been doing this, how old were you when you started as a busboy?

Marshall Taylor:                I turned 25 my first summer.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This has really been-

Marshall Taylor:                This is my life.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Your life. And you keep doing it year after year.

Marshall Taylor:                Because it’s my life. For a long time, I had an off season job, things that were more on the school calendar. As my process at Quisisana evolved, I don’t have to … I have a full time employment by them now, which is a blessing. I’m in my early 50s and I’ve had one job. I’m so lucky, but I think who would look at a resume when it has one job for all that time. That’s not the world. I guess I’m a throw back too.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I think that there are people who do things for that amount of time. Maybe not as many nowadays, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

Marshall Taylor:                No, no, I don’t think it’s a bad thing either. I think it’s a wonderful thing; it’s just not the norm and it doesn’t make for great cocktail party conversation.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What was your favorite performance this summer?

Marshall Taylor:                We did a wonderful children’s piece called Dear Edwina, a musical. I have a real love for children’s theater and music I think because I didn’t have that as a kid. Literally, my music classes were on the radio because we were so remote in Wisconsin. I think it’s so special to reach kids. We had this, like I said, Dear Edwina. There’s moments of truth. It was a questions and answer, people were asking her advice. It’s all a musical. It just has a sweetness and an innocence that always captured me, and the cast was incredible. That was my favorite for the summer. Thrilling moments and other things, we did sometime Into the Woods. We had some great voices in our operetta. My heart always was won by that first Monday morning every week.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Do you know what you’re gonna be doing next year or is that still in the works?

Marshall Taylor:                That’s still in the works. I take the fall to listen. I do consider things that are a little bit far off field. I try to stretch myself and think, “Would that work? Would that work?” Then I listen to the former cast members to see what they’re thinking about for the next summer. I do like to have a few aces in the hole when it comes to casting. I don’t commit until January 1 every year. Now I put it on Facebook. Soon thereafter, we send a postcard to the guests. I have a bit of time to consider it.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I appreciate your taking the time out of your schedule to come in and talk. As we’re speaking, the resort has just finished up, and you’re still there for a few more weeks before you head back to your other home. I’ve been speaking with Marshall Taylor who is the artistic director at Quisisana Resort, a resort in western Maine that specialized in musical entertainment. Thank you for bringing this wonderful joy into the world.

Marshall Taylor:                Thank you so much for spreading the joy. It’s been a pleasure.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s old port where everybody is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Paul Cousins is the founder, principal, and CFO at Atmos Forecast, a meteorologist consulting company based in Portland. He has been analyzing weather in the northeast for over 40 years. Thanks for coming in.

Paul Cousins:                       You’re quite welcome. I’m still analyzing, and I hope to get I right someday.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It seems a little bit like my field of medicine where you’re always going to be learning new things and technology is going to change. It’s probably never a place where you’re gonna get to say, “I know everything about this.”

Paul Cousins:                       That’s right. The learning curve, there’s no end in sight.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Which is excited.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why weather? Why were you interested in this in the first place?

Paul Cousins:                       I’m sure it had to do with my youth and my large family, many brothers. The myth is I was baptized in my crib during Hurricane Carol. I’m dating myself again, the 50s. My grandmother’s house, the roof leaked. I was baptized by a hurricane. As a very young child, my mother was always kicking us out of the house because she needed some space. We were always playing outside, any sports or on the beach. When the weather turned inclement, my father would rope us in to get us out of harms way. I recall as a very young sprite, he would sit us on his knee, and we’d watch storms roll across the bay on the south shore of Massachusetts and watching lightning strikes pink the surface of the bay and everything just turned white, the oriel of charged water. I thought that was fascinating. Every time there was a thunder storm, we’d say, “Dad, porch, view.” That’s where it all began. Then of course everything we did outside was weather dependent, summer sports, winter sports, skating, you name it. I was very highly attuned to the local day to day weather.

I was I think in junior high school, I was a budding, young science nerd. I was fascinated with the weather, and I took a mentor in commercial television. The boss his name was Don Kent. He was one of the first broadcast meteorologists in the country, and I took quite a liking to the way he presented weather. To make a long story short, I struck up a relationship with him, and he became my mentor. I would visit him once every year in the studios of WBZTV in Boston. We talked shop, and we became really great friends over about a 10 year period. He said, “Paul, what are you gonna do with yourself? You’re gonna graduate from high school.” He said, “Go into solar energy.” Back in the day, that was a crazy thing to do. That was almost heretical. It was a concept. I said, “No, I want to do what you do, Don. I want to be a television meteorologist.” He said, “Paul, it’s crazy. It’s 40% and 60% show biz.” Of course, I thunderstruck, pardon the expression.

I went to Middlebury. I was a geophysicist and enjoyed it, but I graduated and worked for the US geological survey for a year or two. I said, “I miss weather too much.” I went back to school and got a degree. The circle became very short within a few years of obtaining a degree in meteorology. I was contacted by the news director at WBZTV in Boston and they wanted me to come down and audition because Don can’t. My mentor was retiring. Low and behold, I got the job. Here, my childhood mentor was retiring, and I was going to make an attempt to fill his shoes, which was virtually impossible. We had a ball for two weeks and his retirement party. He and I were on the air together every day. Talk about a dream come true. The rest is history. I just stayed in the industry, never regretted it for minute.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Geophysicist, that’s sounds like quite a hefty scientific major.

Paul Cousins:                       It was. The calculus just about killed me, but there’s a lot of math in physics. I was working for the geological survey at the time when the United States was considering leasing the eastern shelf to oil companies for exploratory drilling. You can imagine that environmentalists were quite concerned at the time, still are. We were charged by the Bureau of Land Management to do a lot of research out there to see how stable the continental shelf was because they’re gonna put oil rigs out there. What are the waves like? What’s the bottom like? We found out it was a very turbulent area. There were sand dunes 20-30 feet high that would migrate across the continental shelf. Can you imagine what that would do to an oil rig? To say nothing about 100 year storms, which turned out to happen every couple of years. Sandy was not that unique. That was five years ago. It was cutting edge science back in the 70s. Fascinating. We’d spend weeks at sea doing exploratory drilling to find out the stability of the strata and monitoring currents and waves. Work with a lot of redneck crews from the bayou. They were hoots. I learned a lot from these crews from the deep south at sea for weeks at a time. Anyway, it was a fascinating time with the US geological survey, but weather was still burning a hole in my back pocket, so I left and went back to school.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It seems as though weather, at least broadcast weather, has changed a lot in the last 30 years.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely. Absolutely. I couldn’t speak with total accuracy as how it’s changed, but when I was in the business, we had two and then three news casts a day with hours in between. I multi-tasked. I did a lot of radio work on my own volition. Now from what I understand from my associates who I still chat with from time to time, you have five or six news casts a day. You’re working for two or three television stations. You’re blogging. You’re maintaining other websites, doing radio. It’s non-stop. I guess it’s 9 or 10 hours straight, barely enough time to tie your shoes.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You were with WCSH?

Paul Cousins:                       Initially.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Initially.

Paul Cousins:                       Then I went to Hartford and Boston and then came back to GME.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why decide that you wanted to do something so different for yourself with your current position?

Paul Cousins:                       My consultancy?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Yeah.

Paul Cousins:                       Actually, when I began my stint at GME in the 80s, I launched a large radio clientele. I launched the weather column in the Portland Press Herald. No one was doing it. I was enjoying the freelance work. I was also advising a lot of municipalities and large construction companies and Bath Iron Works, Central Maine Power, weather sensitive industries. It became quite a full boat. It was fascinating and I was an entrepreneur. I was my own boss. I thought, “You know, this television industry, it’s great, but it’s changing. I think I should make room for some young blood.” My consultancy was certainly well fleshed out, so I could pursue that as a sustainable profession.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What about the broadcasting piece of it do you miss?

Paul Cousins:                       The comradery, without a doubt. Miss that a lot because I work for myself in my own office with a very simple broadcast studio. There’s no one there but me, the microphone and I. The bulk of my work is really consulting for industry, and the energy companies and our litigious community. I do a lot of consulting for attorneys and insurance companies, which I never thought would be so engaging.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Tell me about that. What does it mean to be someone who consults on the weather?

Paul Cousins:                       The term is called a forensic meteorologist. A lot of it is weather event reconstruction. Let’s say someone slips on a sidewalk. Was someone negligent in not sanding or salting or plowing. The far more interested cases I’ve had, I think it was when Hurricane Floyd passed through Maine 20 or 15 years ago, a fellow had a deer herd up in Jefferson. The allegation was that lightning bolts struck a pole near where all the deer were congregating, and they were electrocuted, and they died. The owner quickly buried all the deer in a mass grave so that it would not infect the rest of the herd. The insurance company say, “Nah, just wait a minute. First of all, was there lightning that struck your yard, deer yard?” I was charged with determining with whether or not that happened. They also brought in a veterinary. They exhumed the deer and found out the deer had some illness prior to the date of this storm. It turned out that this fellow was actually trying to collect insurance proceeds for something that was not a natural cause. The deer were sick and died from this disease. That was an interesting case. There have been many others, but that happened in Maine. I testified in superior court in Vermont. There have been a lot of very engaging things that have happened.

The funny story when I was in superior court in Vermont. This high powered row of attorneys from Boston were representing the [inaudible 00:38:25] and I was representing the defendant, a small construction company in northern Vermont. They’re laying out their grand case, and the judge is sitting there. He turns to me, and he looks at my resume. “Would you happen to know this professor at Middlebury?” I said, “Yes, he was the greatest guy.” He started talking to me in sidebar. The attorneys from Boston were flabbergasted, “What’s the judge doing talking to this witness on the stand?” Many, many funny things have happened in and out of court and on and off the air.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I’m interested in this person that attempted to get his dead deer paid for.

Paul Cousins:                       Insurance fraud. Pure and simple.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  But the idea that in this day and age, you could actually claim that something weather related occurred and think that nobody else is going to know whether you’re right or not. Is that a common thing or do most people accept that with the technology we have, we can reconstruct things?”

Paul Cousins:                       That’s an excellent question. There are skeptics who don’t want to believe the data. Then you can say the data can be interpreted in a number of different ways.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s still … Even if you testify that for example there was lightning strike or there wasn’t a lightning strike, you can still have people who can question whether you are accurate in your statements.

Paul Cousins:                       Right. Did that gauge really catch every lightning strike within a 10 mile radius? Anything can be questioned.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why forensic meteorology? Why that as opposed to other types of meteorology?

Paul Cousins:                       That’s probably one third of the time I spend. Most of what I do is push a very sharp pencil for a lot of utilities in New York, Connecticut, and Maine. Energy providers, they need to know heat and degree information. That’s the day to day gist of what I do and Maine Public Broadcasting. That’s the entertainment mouthpiece.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What types of things do these energy companies need to know?

Paul Cousins:                       For example, Bath Iron Works when you have 5,000 employees and they’re looking to shift changes and so forth, they have to plan ahead both in terms of maintaining their physical plant, when to call in shifts early, let them go early, water levels on the Kennebec. They need to know about that. Occasionally they have sea trials they want to ping on me to determine sea state and so forth and visibility ranges. It’s fascinating. For Central Maine Power, it’s wind, lightning, icing, all the concerns that have been very real this winter again.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  How accurate are you able to be?

Paul Cousins:                       I would be disingenuous if I said I was better than 90%.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  But that’s still pretty good.

Paul Cousins:                       I hope so. They renew my contract from year to year, so I guess that speaks for itself. I’ve been doing this now for 30 years.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s some amount of looking at the information that you have access to and then there’s-

Paul Cousins:                       Oh, it’s phenomenal.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s also some amount of your experience that enables you to translate that information, correct?

Paul Cousins:                       I would like to think so. I think the biggest challenge for a modern day meteorologist is to decide which information to review and digest because there’s a plethora of data out there, simply overwhelmed, on a 24/7 basis, which is marvelous. One thing I do miss are a set of eyes to actually see the weather and record it. We used to have thousands of weather observers that were a part of Noah’s Cooperative Observing Program. There’s still several dozen out there, but most of them have retired. Now we rely on telemetrics, sensors. Never as good as a pair of eyes, but that data network is actually more robust than the actual physical observer decades ago. Nothing replaces a pair of eyes and observing what is actually transpiring at any given location. I use that data a lot for weather event reconstruction.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  We recently spoke with Robin Alden who worked for 40 year with fisherman off the coast of Maine. One of the things that she talked about was this idea that people with their eyes could make observations that really nicely complemented the science that was out there.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It seems as though we could find benefit from both. Do you think this will ever come back?

Paul Cousins:                       I highly doubt it for two reasons. Man power is expensive and the technology for these remote transmitting devices continues to improve. We have a dozen buoys out on the gulf of Maine that transmit wave heights, wind direction, speed, gusts, sea water salinity, currents, a plethora of data. They’re really good.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’re saying that we might not actually need these eyes?

Paul Cousins:                       Well, I just don’t see it happening. I would love to see observers return. We used to have ships out there who’d report in every hour what the sea state was and how much freezing spray there was. Now we have to make an educated guess based on the telemetry that radioed in, in some cases every 15 minutes. It’s really quite remarkable.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You have an interest in the water. You actually … When we asked who you think we should recognize for the job they do in our community, you said the Friends of Casco Bay.

Paul Cousins:                       They do a terrific job.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why in particular that group? You must work with so many groups around the state, but you think that they are worthy of recognition in particular.

Paul Cousins:                       I think it’s probably an area, which I really cherish having been boating on this bay for 30 years. It’s really a jewel. Every time I sit out there quietly at anchor, nothing’s moving, nothing’s turned on and just see the splendor really how fortunate we are to have this 15 minutes from my doorstep and people travel across the country to see this beautiful body of water, which now is burgeoning with agriculture. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. My concern is now with climate change and the warming and the green crab invasion and the acidification of the water, we’re losing soft shell clams. These are all manifestations of climate change.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When people out there say that climate change is not real, I’m not one of these people but I know it is being said, how do you kind of mentally work with that?

Paul Cousins:                       First of all, I gauge the tenor of this individual, how malleable are they or impressionable? Believe it or not, 30 years ago, I was a skeptic. As a geologist, I had seen through paleo-climate logical records the climate on this earth change dramatically over millions of years. We’ve known about ice ages coming and going for millions of years. All of North America was under ice millions of years ago. I thought, “Hey, it’s a natural change. It has to do with the sun’s radiant energy and the tilt of the earth and all those other pieces.” Over time, listening to professionals who know much more about the intricacies of our global circulation system, I said, “There’s just no way I can deny this anymore.” Just look at the carbon dioxide trace in the last 40 years. We’ve been on from 360 to 400 parts per million. That’s not natural. That’s purely anthropogenic forcing, burning fossil fuels. There’s no question in my mind.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Does it ever frustrate you when you hear people suggest that we shouldn’t pay attention to this because it’s just pretend?

Paul Cousins:                       Certainly, but if they don’t believe that climate change is occurring, I’m not going to take up that argument. You pick your battles, right?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You and I share a connection in that your family from many generations ago was actually responsible for founding or at least being an early of Cousins Island and I live off Cousins Island. That’s a really special connection that you have with the state of Maine.

Paul Cousins:                       Yes.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You originally … You told me that it was a great-grandfather-

Paul Cousins:                       Eight great-grandfather.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Eighth great-grandfather was originally off of Cousins. His last name is obviously Cousins and somehow was too friendly with the Native Americans and sent up the coast and originally landed in Ellsworth, but then found his way to Bar Harbor. Is that right?

Paul Cousins:                       That is correct. He was booted out of one town from another. First in Plymouth colony, Mass Bay colony, he was too friendly with the Indians. “John Cousins, go.” Settled in Cousins and the locals said, “John Cousins, go.” I think when he got up to Ellsworth, he decided, “Hey, this Bar Harbor’s a pretty nice place. I’m heading down there.” Then he stayed and then the family generations rippled on and on and on.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Isn’t that a strange thing to think about that one could be too friendly with the Native American population?

Paul Cousins:                       I think he must have been some sort of ambassador or he’s trying to strike up commerce. Who knows what his agenda was?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It was some sort of a threat to people who were coming in later to settle the land.

Paul Cousins:                       Maybe he was just trying to pave the way for colonization. I don’t know. No one has ever written the history or the treatise of John Cousins and his ambassador tendencies.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I find this all very interesting because I just wrote a story for Maine magazine about Turner Farm, which is located on North Haven. They found evidence of the group they’re calling the Red Paint Indians from 7,000 years ago. We have this very interesting and old history of our state that I think a lot of us don’t often ponder.

Paul Cousins:                       7,000 years ago, these preceded the Norwegians and the Vikings then, the Norseman?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Absolutely.

Paul Cousins:                       Wow.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This about the extent of my background. I just thought it was very interesting that this is … We think of colonization as going back a few hundred years, but there were colonies that already existed. They just were before the people who came over on boats.

Paul Cousins:                       Didn’t you wish you had bought a couple of acres back in the day?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Well, I’m happy to …

Paul Cousins:                       You’re in a great spot if you’re near Cousins Island. That’s spectacular. As I told you, I think Casco Bay is a jewel.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It is a jewel, yeah. Are you happy that you ended up coming back to the state that your family was originally from?

Paul Cousins:                       I’m happy to be here because of the quality of life. It’s just [inaudible 00:49:41] that none of my relatives … Actually, I think I have a great-aunt who lives near Southwest Harbor, but otherwise, I don’t have any living relatives in the state any longer.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  How is the quality in life different here than in where you’ve lived in other places?

Paul Cousins:                       When I grew up outside of Boston … I grew up outside of Boston, came back to Boston as a professional. It fun to think that I was actually coming home. I just found the intensity of the lifestyle and the congestion unpalatable. I couldn’t get from my home outside of Boston to the water in 15 minutes nor could I get from my home to Sugar Loaf or Sunday River in 15 minutes. It’s a lot closer in Portland that it is outside of Boston.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’ve been skiing you said in Sunday River from …

Paul Cousins:                       When they had T bars and one tiny little base lodge.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  That’s a few years ago.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  How have you seen Maine change? You talked about living outside of Boston. Obviously there was a lot of changes over the years as a result of the people coming in and living and working. How is Maine changing?

Paul Cousins:                       It’s certainly becoming more populated. I used to be able to zip downtown in 10 minutes, now it takes half an hour. Obviously everybody wants a piece of the pie. You can’t blame them, spectacular. Fortunately where I live, it hasn’t changed much. There are neighborhoods going around, but the schools are still pretty much the same. In fact, I occasionally substitute in schools. Some of the teachers that taught my two children are still there, which is just phenomenal.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Tell me what your favorite I guess weather activity has been over the last we’ll give it five years. Just must have some weather activity I mean, events, things that we have all been impacted by.

Paul Cousins:                       Oh boy. Well, we missed Sandy here. That was a near miss for Maine. I think Irene was pretty impacting, even though, again, that affected western New England more than Maine. That was a pretty significant storm. Of course, when these storms are approaching, I’m on DEFCON 4, full alert. My clients just can’t get enough of me, which is great because I feel like I’m contributing to storm preparation and so forth. I’m mitigating loss of property and so forth. Obviously, the major storms are a rush. Is that the question your asking?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I guess even as I said it, I realized saying your favorite storm is probably kind of weird because a lot of people are-

Paul Cousins:                       People’s least favorite events.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  A lot of people really are impacted negatively by these storms.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely. I don’t discount that for a minute.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What is it about these major storms that energizes you in some way?

Paul Cousins:                       I mean just to see the atmosphere throw us such a curve ball and to see all of these elements come together in concert to create such a dramatic natural environmental calamity. You gotta think that the forces of nature are just insurmountable. We really are at the mercy entirely of mother nature.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Is that something that you think we forget?

Paul Cousins:                       In our very technologically advanced and insulated life style, I think a lot of people have lost touch with the fact that weather events are significant. Due to climate change, they’re going to become more extreme and more frequent and we should prepare for that.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  We are just coming off of what was called I believe it was a bomb cyclone, a major weather event.

Paul Cousins:                       Mm-hmm. Bombogenesis. We’ll see more and more of those.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Talk to me about that.

Paul Cousins:                       As the climate warms, air temperatures rise, sea surface temperatures rise and ocean temperatures rise, we’re enabling the global climate to harbor more energy, more potential energy with these higher temperatures. When we have the right, what’s the word, collusion of weather elements, you’re gonna get a bigger play.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This is something that impacted not only our part of the world, but really was all the way down into Florida where they got snow.

Paul Cousins:                       Snow in northern Florida this last week. That’s pretty rare. It’s snowed in southern Louisiana, what did I see, the first time in two decades. Weather extremes are going to become more prevalent, both hot and cold, wet and dry. Look at all these fires in southern California.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  That would make it very hard for us to stay prepared if you are in northern Florida and you haven’t really needed to have snow plows or sanders. Now you’re going to have these extremes of weather. That could be a very costly and difficult situation.

Paul Cousins:                       I can only imagine.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What do you see the next phase of your life looking like? You’ve done so many things over the past 30 years in this field. Is there anything new and interesting that you’d like to tackle?

Paul Cousins:                       I’d like to have more time playing the piano. I used to play daily, but now when you work for yourself, you’re 24/7 even though I don’t work non-stop. I have less time that I know that I’m going to have free and clear. I’d also like to learn how to play the saxophone. I think that’s one of the most sensuous instruments out there other than the piano. I couldn’t be a three man band on the drum, the saxophone, and the piano. I really enjoy music and I enjoy both jazz and classical piano. I used to play in the piano bars here in Portland years ago. I’d just walk in and say, “Is someone taking that piano?” They say, “No, go ahead and play.” I would play until the patrons would come in and sometimes they’d start to tip me. I’d say, “No, no. Don’t bother.” That was fun.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I hope you have the chance to do that.

Paul Cousins:                       I do too. It could happen.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Yeah, it could happen. I’ve been speaking with Paul Cousins who is the founder, principal, and CFO at Atmos Forecast, a meteorologist consulting company based in Portland. He has been analyzing weather in the northeast for over 40 years. Thanks for taking the time to come in and for all the work you do.

Paul Cousins:                       My pleasure.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port, 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in it’s newly expanded space including Inken Georgonson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

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Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 340. Our guests have included Marshall Taylor and Paul Cousins. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them hear. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. Now, you have a bountiful life.

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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #339: Debby Irving and Donna Dwyer

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Main Radio hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Main Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless and Moxie Magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio show number 339, airing for the first time on Sunday, March 18, 2018. Today, we speak with racial justice advocate Debbie Irving who published her first book waking up white about her journey toward unpacking her white identity and creating effective social change. We also speak with Donna Dwyer, CEO of the My Place Teen Center in Westbrook. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Ingen Jorgenson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Cory, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Lisa Belisle:                          Debbie Irving is a racial justice educator, author and public speaker. She is also the author of Waking Up White, a book that tracks her journey unpacking her white identity. Thanks for coming in.

Debbie Irving:                      Thanks for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          White identity, that’s such an interesting thing to even have to grapple with, I think.

Debbie Irving:                      Well, I didn’t know I had one actually until the age of 48 when I went to take a course called racial and cultural identities. It was a mandatory class when I was just starting out to get my masters in special ed. And I thought mistakenly that I was going to learn the racial and cultural identities of black and brown people so I could be a better teacher in racially mixed classrooms. And I was floored on the first day when the professor told us that we would each be doing our own personal racial and cultural identity dive because I honestly thought, “What am I going to be doing?” I didn’t know I had a racial identity.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you think that we are almost uncomfortable if we are white to feel as though we have a racial identity?

Debbie Irving:                      Well, not everybody in any racial group experiences everything exactly the same. But are some or many white people uncomfortable? I think yeah, I think you’re right. I think people are uncomfortable because well, for a lot of reasons. One is that there’s this idea in the United States that we’re all individuals and we make it or not on our own. And white people are very much able to buy into that and think, “We’re all just individuals.” My own successes or failures, it’s on me. And so, we don’t see ourselves as a group and we don’t know, most white people, we don’t know what the stereotypes are or the group images are about us as white people. But we are very familiar with grouping other people, having stereotypes about all black people, all Asian people, all Latino people, all Arab people.

The idea of being in a group I think is what’s really uncomfortable. If you say a white identity, a white person has to for the first time maybe think, “Well, I don’t identify as white, I’m Italian, I’m Greek, I’m Irish, I’m English.” But white’s a real thing, it’s a real category with a whole experience that goes with it.

Lisa Belisle:                          I remember one of the anecdotes that you brought up in the book was about Native Americans and when you were a child asking where did all the Native Americans go. And I believe your mother’s response was something that probably we’ve all heard before, but tell me a little bit about that, tell the people who are listening with that story?

Debbie Irving:                      Yeah. There’s so much to unpack on this one little exchange. The exchange went like this, I said to my mother, “Where did all the Indians go?” And my mother was a really lovely, warm, compassionate woman, and she said, “It’s really sad, they drank themselves to death.” First of all, one thing to note there is that I was a little kid and I was curious, which is the most wonderful thing about human beings. We’re all actually curious, but I think we learned to be less curious over time because of fear of saying something stupid or wrong. And I sure learned in that moment, the conversation went on a little bit, which I talk about in the book. But it ended up being a conversation that made me never want to ask a question again like that because the answer was so uncomfortable for me.

It continued to be about Indians, they got really dangerous and they were drunk. And my mother told me a terrible story about a drunken Indian who went on a rampage who killed a family. All of that I now understand is widespread mythology. And my mother wasn’t lying to me, but she was teaching me a version of history that she had been taught. I’m sitting here looking behind you at the state of Maine, behind you and thinking my family is an old Maine family. We got a land grant up in Houlton, Maine. And this entire state and this entire nation of what we now call the United States of America was once indigenous land for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of years. And that history was never taught to me. I was told that the Indians couldn’t handle liquor. Later, I think I learned that they couldn’t handle European disease. And so, there was a real manufactured myth of a people … oh, and that they lived in the wilderness, that they were uncivilized.

All of that is untrue, there is a really rich history of indigenous people’s in the United States, what became the United States. And unfortunately, there’s a really horrific story about what happened to their way of life and to the land that they were so attached to that has everything to do with people like my ancestors and descendants of my ancestors who were engaged in … We don’t talk about it, but it’s really a warfare akin to terrorism. Boy, that’s a lot we can unpack from that one question. I was right as a little child to wonder whatever happened to all the Indians and how sad for me I think that I got an answer that was by a well-intentioned woman with a lot of love in her heart that perpetuated myths that made me go on to continue to be in a state of ignorance.

Lisa Belisle:                          You also spend a fair amount of time talking about the sort of pull yourself up by your bootstraps, positive mentality that is really, it is actually a big part of I think white culture although maybe other cultures as well, but how damaging that really can be. This idea that if we just work really hard as individuals, then we are going to succeed. And that we should always put a happy smiley face on everything, but what if you’re from a cultural group that that’s not the way they approach things.

Debbie Irving:                      Yeah. When you say not approach things, are you thinking about a culture where working … Are you thinking about different work ethics or you’re thinking about the way that that one phrase, that one framing can work differently for people across different groups?

Lisa Belisle:                          I think what I’m saying is when I’ve had conversations with people who are, for example, I’ll just say Italian. And my family, which is French and Irish, we’re a little bit more conservative in the way that we interact. But I’ve been in situations with an Italian family, and there’s high volumes, there’s a lot of back and forth, the conflict is dealt with in a very different way. And so, what may initially come across is a little overwhelming for me because I came from the let’s all be happy, let’s all be harmonic and let’s look at this in a really positive way. They do differently because they are working through things in a not let’s put a smiley face on something and just move forward.

Debbie Irving:                      Right. That feels a little different than bootstraps for me. What I hear you talking about is a cultural norm, what you experience in your household is what I experienced in mine, which is we’re going to put a happy face on, buck up, look on the bright side, be optimistic. That’s a cultural norm around avoiding conflict. And also, what goes hand-in-hand in that is the idea of emotional restraint. If you are unhappy or if you’re angry or sad, that’s not for public consumption, just go do that in private. I’m going to come back and behave a certain way in polite company or shared company or company, whatever you want to say, but it gets positioned.

What you and I experienced is very much aligned with what’s called the dominant white culture. And that’s the culture that we’re all asked to understand and engage within when we go into the classroom, when we go into workspaces, when we’re in a hospital setting, we’re in the bank getting a loan, there is a way of being that’s seen not only as one way of being, but as right. And so, for me growing up if I had seen that Italian, and I did see Italian families who would kind of knock-down, drag-out over things in their household,. And I was really judgmental about that, I didn’t see that as another cultural way of being or one that might even be healthier. I saw it as a flawed way of being, as people who weren’t emotionally restrained and hadn’t learned that avoiding conflict was actually the more civilized approach.

Yeah. What you’re starting to tap into with that question and that observation is the idea of cultural norms that can work really well if you’re raised at a house that fits that. And can work against you if you’re raised in a different kind of a household or if the norm is that we’re supposed to be conflict avoidant and emotionally restrained, think about the judgment I used to cast on black and brown people who were trying to say, “I’m experiencing discrimination, it feels terrible. And instead of being curious, now we’re back to curiosity and listening and saying, “Tell me more,” I would judge them for being angry, “You’re too angry, you’re complaining, you’re stirring the pot,” it’s comments like that that are keeping this problem alive.

Lisa Belisle:                          I think and I want to go back to the bootstrap thing because I think you’re right, it is a separate thing. But I also remember you saying that one of the ways that you would deal with people feeling discriminated against was just to say, “Oh, no. I don’t think that that’s what they meant.”

Debbie Irving:                      Right. Yeah. Someone would say to me, “My check didn’t get cashed at your corner store.” My thought wouldn’t be, “You’re kidding, wow. What? I’ve got to go investigate that.” It would be, “No, no, no, no. They do that because they’ve done that for me.” I was so stuck in my own experience as a universal experience is how I now understand that. I just couldn’t hear truths that I didn’t want to be truth. As it turns out, there was discrimination all around me, I could have observed, but I turned a blind eye to it. And I did have some colleagues and friends, superficial friends I now understand of color trying to share discriminatory moments with me and I just couldn’t hear it.

Lisa Belisle:                          When I hear what you’re saying, I have had experiences like this and gone back and looked at myself a few years back or even a few minutes back and it’s horrifying to me. I would never want to intentionally hurt someone or intentionally try to shut them down or intentionally, I don’t know, engage in this dominant culture that’s so hurtful. But it still happens, and it’s so uncomfortable.

Debbie Irving:                      I am 10 years into this, it was 10 years ago this month or maybe 9 years ago this month that I started taking that course, racial and cultural identity. I am 10 years into a 24/7 learning curve, and if you could see my hand, I am not changing it at all, it’s a black diamond uphill. I still do things, I still behave in ways. What’s different is that I know I’m surrounded by colleagues and friends of color, they’re not superficial relationships. And I do have people point out to me or I will feel that feeling in my stomach and realize I’ve said or done something that may be hurtful and might just be a sign of my ignorance. And so, that’s a difference that I can catch myself and that people I have trusting enough relationships where people will reflect back for me.

And I know never to be defensive even when that feeling arises. I know to say, “What just happened? This is a learning opportunity. Why did I do that? Why didn’t I know that? Why did I react that way?” That really never goes away, the only thing I think feels different for me is that I’m not even comfortable with the discomfort, but I’m tolerant of the discomfort and I really, really understand, “Okay. This is a moment to stick with it, learn.”

Lisa Belisle:                          Let’s talk about the bootstrap thing, which I think is really interesting because it’s this idea that, I think you put it out there as kind of a New England thing where if you just go in and you just work hard, you can make your way in life. And any success that you have gained is a result of your hard work. And that was something that you learned over time, that wasn’t entirely an accurate representation of reality.

Debbie Irving:                      No. Go to the Midwest and they think they’re the ones who invented the bootstraps theory, and I go to the West Coast and they think they’re the ones. And I went to Canada, they have it there too. The bootstraps theory is a universal, it’s part of what’s called United States master narrative. Every country has an identity and a story that they tell about themselves to themselves and to the outside world on a big piece of the American master narrative is that the playing field is level, that anybody can come here and just work hard and you can make it. And if the going gets tough, we’ve got bootstraps so we can pull ourselves up. It’s very much woven into that level playing field concept. And it’s where a lot of times you’ll hear the word, we’re a nation of immigrants, which I want a challenge.

We’re not a nation of immigrants, we are a nation of immigrants and enslaved Africans who were brought here against their will and indigenous peoples who were already living here, who are trying very, very hard and still fighting every day for our sovereignty and land rights. That’s who we are, a nation of not just immigrants. But that immigrant idea that you can come here, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that felt really real to me because I was surrounded, I grew up in Winchester, Mass, a white suburb and North of Boston. I was surrounded by families who had a story that went, “My great-grandparents came here from Italy, Ireland, Germany, France. They had two cents in their pocket, they didn’t speak a word of English, they were treated like dirt. And look at us now, a couple generations later. We worked hard and we made it, we achieved the American dream.”

The level playing field and the bootstraps theory of working hard really does work for a lot of people. In many ways, the United States and this great melting pot idea, the reason it’s problematic is that it excludes a lot of people who are so marginalized and targeted with barriers to not be able to access the American Dream that it makes them look like losers. It makes it look like they didn’t work hard enough, like they don’t want to work hard enough, like they want to live off the government. And so, it allows a whole group of immigrants who are able to eventually become white turn and judge and say, “My family did it, why can’t yours?” Without knowing all that’s gone down in terms of erecting and maintaining barriers to housing, lending, education, food supply, medical care, transportation that many communities of color experience that white people don’t even know about or have to know about.

Lisa Belisle:                          You gave the example of the GI Bill and how that meant different things to different people depending upon essentially their skin color.

Debbie Irving:                      Oh, my God, that blew me away. If I could say one thing that people say to me in the book blew them away, it’s that because there is this idea, this is again, that level playing field. The GI Bill, which for anyone listening GI was the term used for veteran after World War two. And the GI Bill was a set of benefits offered by the United States government to returning veterans, and it had a housing component and it had a higher ed component as well as a couple of others. My father went to Harvard Law School on that bill and my parents bought their first home in Winchester, Massachusetts for $17,000 on that bill. And I thought it was available to everyone, it turns out the GI Bill mostly excluded the black and brown GIs because there were 1.2 million black GIs, they were indigenous GIs, there were Latino GIs and there were Asian-American GIs.

And the reason black and brown GIs were mostly unable to access it wasn’t because it said it was a white only bill, it was because there were pre-existing barriers in our society. For instance, I’ll just speak to the housing piece. at the time, the federal housing authority when it created the mortgage in the 1930s and set out to develop the biggest part of the New Deal, a big housing expansion all across the United States. The mortgage was created to help facilitate that. And the mortgage said that private banks and some government lending agencies were suddenly going to be in the business of making loans to everyday people to go buy everyday homes. This is a completely new endeavor.

And the FHA said, “We want to be careful that all of us lenders manage our risk. And so, we’re going to think about what are good loans and what are bad loans.” And they created color-coded maps of cities and neighborhoods and towns that outlined who lived where according to racial lines. The practice was called redlining because outlined in red were neighborhoods where black and brown people lived and outlined in green were neighborhoods where only white people lived. Then there were two other gradations in between. And this all stemmed from one phrase, and the FHA guidelines that said the presence of even one or two non-white individuals can undermine real estate values.

That meant that keeping white neighborhoods white was the only way. In the imaginations of the people who constructed this policy that keeping white neighborhoods white was the only way to keep housing values maintained and escalate, maintained build equity in homes. The GI Bill was only good in white neighborhoods, so black and brown GIs could not use the housing portion of that. And you think about, “Well, yeah. That was back in the 1940s and here we are in 2018.” But the wealth transfer that happened, $120 billion went from government coffers into the hands of private individuals through the housing portion of the GI Bill. And that’s in 1940s dollars, and 98% of that went to white families like mine.

That house in Winchester that my parents bought, they upgraded at some point and bought a bigger house and then ultimately sold that for a million dollars, 40 years after that first $17,000 investment made possible by the government. And when you look at the white, black, or you could just call it the racial wealth gap today, you’d see how much more money white people have on average. Once I would have explained that as white people were harder working, smarter, more intelligent, more responsible with their money. And now, I just say it’s an inevitable outcome of policy after policy, I’ve just named one, policy after policy that’s diverted resources and rights and access to white people disproportionately.

Lisa Belisle:                          How did that feel to you when you learned that your family had benefited and you had benefited and other people weren’t benefiting from it given that you were studying this?

Debbie Irving:                      I felt duped, I felt really duped and angry. Because I really love the idea of a level playing field, I love the idea of being part of a country where it is a safe harbor, where people can come to this country like my Irish ancestors did from a time of famine and find a place, find a home and work really hard and make it. And when I realized that that American dream that I was so invested in really wasn’t available to everyone and that there was greed and mal-intent. It wasn’t just good people not knowing better that there was a lot of manipulation happening in ways that made me suddenly not proud to be a an American. And I go back and forth between that, there’s so many beautiful things about this country and yet we as a country are not living into, we’re not walking the talk.

And what bothers me much more is that there’s a denial of that. I said to my family at one of our holiday dinners, I said, “What’s worse, if somebody wrongs you or somebody goes on to deny the wrong?” And even the youngest kids at the table were able to, “Oh. If someone does something wrong and admits it, you can fix it. But if they deny it, that makes it so much worse. And that’s what I’m really stuck on, that’s the work I’m doing is to try to figure out how to move white people to owning what we, now we’re back to that first question white identity, why people don’t want to own it or why it might be uncomfortable.

There’s a really tragic history inflicted on many people by not every white person, but by this whole idea of white as a race, whiteness as a way of being. And it’s just harming so many people, and I would argue it’s even harming white people.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’m fortunate because I have children who are in various levels of education. And so, I’ve been able to through them to see this evolution in how we are approaching education on subjects like, I don’t know, let’s say imperialism. But it also creates a lot of questions for me because, for example, I live in Yarmouth and Yarmouth is a town that had a lot of Native Americans at one point. And a lot of friction happened and there were people who came to settle the land and there was fighting and people died as a result of it. The Native Americans became known as the ones who had done the bad deed. And now we have a settler cemetery, the narrative is that here’s all this violent stuff with these violent Native Americans and they wouldn’t just give us the land.

As I’m trying to even make, I was trying to just do an Instagram post about a cemetery that I ran past. I didn’t even know what to call it because it’s not really the settler cemetery, does this make sense?

Debbie Irving:                      Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          We don’t even really have labels around a history anymore because it’s almost so unclear as to how we’re supposed to interpret things now.

Debbie Irving:                      Yes. This is a little bit like the game of telephone, we are so many generations removed now from what actually happened. And we rely on, the winners tell the history it’s part of that. But even then as if the history has just gone away, it’s whitewashed in a way that it’s amnesiatic. I think sometimes when I talk to people about trying to just be curious enough to understand what you don’t know, I think about, Imagine walking into a party and something terrible happened there two hours ago, but you have no idea that it happened and no one’s talking about it. But the dynamics and the tensions in the space are still going to be there, that’s what’s happening in this country. All of the dynamics born of that are still among us, it’s why we tell the history we do, it’s why we get anxious and fearful and defensive and sometimes violent when the history gets questioned. But we’ve got to go back to that original history so that we don’t repeat it.

Lisa Belisle:                          I enjoyed your book quite a lot, I’m glad that I took the time to listen to it. It was an audio book, so it was fun to listen to the voice that I’m now talking to. I’ve been speaking with Debby Irving who is a racial justice educator, author and public speaker. Also, the author of Waking Up White, a book that tracks her journey unpacking her white identity. For anyone who’s interested, it’s an uncomfortable read, but it’s extremely educational. And I came away feeling a lot more curious, and I tend to be curious anyway. I appreciate your coming in, thank you.

Debbie Irving:                      Yeah. Thanks for having me, it’s been great.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s old port where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Lisa Belisle:                          Donna Dwyer is the CEO of the My Place Teen Center, a youth development program based on Westbrook. Thanks for coming in.

Donna Dwyer:                     Thank you, excited to be here.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, we’re excited to have you, you are doing some very important work at the My Place Teen Center.

Donna Dwyer:                     We are. It’s integral work, it’s hard work, it’s gritty work and it’s hard work. And the work with that we’re doing is we’re working with kids ages 10 to 18, they can come from anywhere in Maine as long. As they can get through our red doors, they can come. And basically, the kids will even tell you this, which is a little astonishing in its truth, but they come there to be safe. And we feed them, we take care of them for five hours a day every day of the week, after school, through the summertime. And it’s a academic excellence and character development, life skills program.

Lisa Belisle:                          When did you decide that you wanted to work in this area because this is a gritty area, this is not an easy area? You have lots of nonprofit and for-profit leadership experience, why did you pick this one?

Donna Dwyer:                     Well, I really didn’t. I was lured into it and compelled. And that’s the story that I would like to share as to why I am so honored to do this job. I was looking for executive director jobs back in 2011, the winter of 2011 and this was one of them. And I thought, “Oh, well, I’ll apply for it, but I don’t think this will be challenging enough for me.” I went on the interviews and the interviews kept on happening and they kept on whittling down the candidates and whatnot. And I was looking at other jobs as well that we’re nonprofit but much more business oriented type of acumen that was required. But then the final layer of interviews actually were with the kids.

If you can imagine for a moment I’m walking into this building, it’s a former United Methodist Church on Main Street in Westbrook. The outside and the inside was completely dilapidated, falling in on itself, the 17 couches that they had there were all falling apart, it was dirty. This at that time was a 13 year old organization. And the organization was on its last legs, frankly. When I walked into the building, I thought, “This is going to take such effort to be a change agent for this organization. Do I really want to put the physical exertion much less the intellectual exertion into this organization?”

But then this interview came, and there was a young woman named Cassie who led the process. And she was the ringleader of all these kids, she’s 17 years old, there were about 25 kids sitting on these broken-down couches. I sort of sat down on this couch where a spring was sticking out of it and they started asking me questions. And the questions were, “Are you going to be mean? Will you still take us on field trips? What kind of a person are you anyway?” And so, I answered those questions and I just found them to be so intriguing. And then Cassie asked this question with this blonde hair, dimples, blue eyes and she said these words to me, “Do you have the skillset to keep the doors open so that my brother coming up behind me will still be able to come?”

And when she asked me, do I have the skillset, I thought, “Wow, this girl has it going on.” I told her, I did have the skillset. And then when I found out who she really was, that at 17 she had been homeless since she was 13. She was a child of parents who are substance users, she frequently ran out of clothing because her mother would sell her clothing for drugs, that food was an issue. And on that first day when I got to know her, I noticed that despite her smile and her gleeful ways and the way she conducted herself, her hands were tremoring the entire time. And that was from anxiety because Cassie carried a backpack with her. And in that backpack was her life belongings.

Most kids carry their L.L.Bean backpack with schoolbooks, their lunch. Cassie carries her backpack with her belongings in it. And so, when I left that interview, I had never had such a strong reaction. But I said to myself, “I must have this job, please give me this job.” And thankfully, they did.

Lisa Belisle:                          What were you doing before? What was the thing that led you to the place where you were looking for a new position?

Donna Dwyer:                     My passion for a long time has been kids with disabilities, but I took a brief break. I have a child with a disability, so obviously my heart tugs at that population. But I took a brief break and went to graduate school and got three graduate degrees, one of them being an MBA. And during the MBA process, we learned from entrepreneurs who always told us to follow your passion. Well, my passion is tennis. And I play tennis six or seven days a week, I have to play tennis. Physically and emotionally, I have to play tennis just like you probably have to run. And so, I thought to myself, “Well, tennis is my passion. I have a good mind for business, I’m going to put together a multi-sport athletic club.”

During this MBA process, this was for four years, I put together a business plan working on a $48 million, 150,000 square foot multi-purpose, multi-sport athletic club to be housed in Scarborough. And then what happened in 2008? The market crashed. And so, we continued to work on this business model for a couple more years, but because of the largesse of this process, I couldn’t get it off the ground past the second seed of funding. Then I thought, “Well, I’m going to go back to my love, which is social services. I know that area, I can do a good job in that area. And I think I can make a difference.” And that’s what led me to My Place Teen Center, Cassie and My Place Teen Center.

Lisa Belisle:                          I think I need to back up a little bit, you have three graduate degrees?

Donna Dwyer:                     Yes. Because I got them mostly all for free so why not keep going. I started at USM to get a special ed degree, a master’s in special ed so that I could be a better mother, frankly. When my son was born, I didn’t have the skill set to be the parent of a child with a disability. He had significant health needs, significant cognitive needs and I wasn’t prepared. And so, when he turned four, I decided I’m going to go back to school and see if I can make a difference. And I knew that advocacy was going to be a huge part of his development and I needed to step up to the plate. I thought, “Well, I don’t think I have the time to go be a medical doctor, go back to school for that.” I thought what else would impact him ? And his schooling would impact him, I thought, “I need to learn the same skillset that the teachers and the administrators need to learn.”

From that vantage point, I went to get my special ed degree. And then I got an administration degree because I wanted to know what it was like to be a principal. Again, never in real practice, never in real theory, never wanted to be a teacher, just wanted to be a better mother. And then I started to work in the field, an advocate in the field. And then I thought, “Well, at some point soon, I know that my natural inclination is to be a leader. How can I be a better leader? I better go get an MBA.” And so, what happened was I worked at the school so I got my classes for free, and then I got a huge scholarship. For three master’s degrees, I paid $600. That’s why I kept on going.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s amazing. Well, $600, that’s also amazing. But you are a mother of a child with a disability, which is enormously time consuming from my understanding and you were working. And you said, “Oh, I think I just want to get some more education.”

Donna Dwyer:                     I’ve always been compelled to be the best that I can be. And I knew that to be the best mother I could be, I had to be a better mother. And that’s the path that I chose to give me the confidence to do what was right for him. And also being an adult learner is amazing and awesome, and I loved every minute of it. It was hard especially the MBA, I was a fish out of water. I was sitting in a classroom with engineers and accountants, and I really don’t have that type of mind. But the challenge in of itself was part of the work, just the challenge was part of the growth.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me about the My Place Teen Center, what types of things do you work with on a day-to-day basis?

Donna Dwyer:                     First and foremost, we serve kids, and that is such a simple word, “Okay, you serve kids.” But they’re very complex and intricate, and especially the middle school level where the executive functioning in their brain isn’t fully formed. Their decision-making can either take them one way or the other. And this particular population that we’re working with, they are surrounded by a daily lexicon probably which you and I were never surrounded with growing up. And their lexicon, ” My dad’s in the jail, my mother had a needle sticking out of her arm. We don’t have enough food in the cupboards. I don’t know where I’m going to sleep, I don’t have a bed. I don’t have winter boots, I don’t have a coat.”

This is their daily existence. If they’re first dealing with themselves as a kid trying to blossom or just trying to survive and then they are dealing with these trauma related behaviors, incidences worrying about their own parents, and in some instances being a parent in the home, they have a choice. And the choice is so perilous and close to one another that they can go on the path like their past, like their present, like what they’re surrounded with. Or they can be given the courage and nurtured, the gripped and instilled the accountability to be able to go on a different path. And so, our levels of success with our kids take many shapes and sizes and forms. The most obvious is you want the kids to graduate first of all, and then you want them to go on to higher education or the army or get a job.

But some of our kids are living in such a state of perilousness that their level of success, for example, is a guy, a young man we’ve been following since he was 13 years old. We’re a 20 year old organization, he’s now 28. And for him, he has significant anxiety, he had significant learning disabilities. And he lived with a mom who has severe mental health issues. From a very young age, they worried about heat in their home, think about several weeks ago when we had that negative 14, negative 15. They worried about heat in their home. And so, here’s this guy who did end up graduating high school, his claim to fame that he’s very, very proud of and we’re proud of him is he is the lead salad bar manager for Ruby Tuesday’s. Yet here’s what else we know about him, he’s never been on government assistance, he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t need it. He wants to earn his own way, he provides for his mother.

And last winter on one of his shifts when he came home from work, he found her with a cord around her neck. She went into P6 for several months, and he’s still working at Ruby Tuesday’s. He takes his mother, she’s out of there now, she’s stable. But here’s this guy who struggled in school, has his own anxiety, he’s taking care of his mom and he’s a contributing member of our community and society. That’s his success story.

Lisa Belisle:                          How do you help people to choose a different path because the draw of the familiar is so strong, the patterning that they’ve experienced is so significant in their young lives that to go in a different direction that requires an enormous amount of strength and probably a lot of help?

Donna Dwyer:                     Yes. And it’s relentless and it’s never ending. Deliberately, we have set up our physical environment to mimic a home. From the moment you step on our property, there’s a white picket fence. In the spring, summer and fall there are beautiful gardens surrounding the building. There’s an American flag waving and there are beckoning doors for them to come through. We’ve decorated unlike any other teen center I’ve ever seen, we decorate it with art, with knickknacks, with comfortable furniture, a living room type feel. We also provide dinners to them every day so they can eat and get a really good nutritious full meal every single day. That’s one way that we do it.

Then we treat them with a lot of love. And our philosophy is love first in all instances and firm when we need to be, like parents. And the third way is through sheer will and determination is that we give these kids lots and lots, and lots of chances because we all make lots of mistakes, and these kids are no different. And so, we meet them where they’re at. That’s kind of a trite saying, a lot of people say that, we meet people where they’re at. But if you’re meeting them when they’re in the most raw, they’re the most vulnerable, they’re the most gritty and they’re there most opportunity for resilience to be immersed in them.

We are compelled, it is our passion to make a difference in these kids lives, our heart calls to them.

Lisa Belisle:                          You grew up in Cape Elizabeth. And that is known to be probably one of the more financially economically advantaged communities in the state of Maine. And yet, there are people who live in Cape Elizabeth who don’t have as much as other people do. Your organization is based in Westbrook and it has a very different demographic. And this is kind of a theoretical question, but how would somebody from Cape Elizabeth who had needs access the type of programming that you offer out in Westbrook?

Donna Dwyer:                     Meaning if a kid from Cape Elizabeth wanted to come?

Lisa Belisle:                          Yes.

Donna Dwyer:                     They can come. If they can get transportation to come there, they can come. Do they come? No, they don’t come. Kids from Cape typically do not come, Falmouth do not come, South Portland comes, Portland comes, Gorham comes, Standish comes, certainly Westbrook comes. Our barriers, there are none except you have to be a kid to come through our doors, but any kid from anywhere can come. What you’re seeing is, and I’ve gone to present up in Falmouth to the rotary a couple of times, that’s 10 minutes away from us. And I’ve said to them, and it was at dinnertime when I presented at their meeting, and I said to them, “10 minutes from these doors, 10 minutes from here are kids 35, 40 kids right now eating dinner that would not be eating.”

When you go to meetings, there’s always spreads of foods or events there spreads of food. And I always think to myself, “I don’t take this food for granted, I don’t take this spread for granted because I know that my kids don’t have access to that unless they come to us.” I will say this though, what I know for sure is that all kids, it doesn’t matter from where you’re from are at risk because if you don’t have an appropriate adult role model in your life, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or you don’t have. If you don’t have an appropriate adult role model that can be that beacon, that harbinger of hope, then you are at risk.

And so, kids who come from impoverished backgrounds can have an appropriate parent in their life, an appropriate adult role model. The wealth doesn’t make or break whether or not a kid and, I know you know this, whether or not they have success. Do they have opportunity and access to a lot more advantages? Yes. Do they maybe take advantage or feel like maybe there’s not the same level of gratitude that maybe the kids that come through the Teen Center doors versus kids who get it handed to them on a silver platter. That can be a barrier. And our kids notice that, they notice other kids’ clothes. They notice that other families sit down to dinner, but their’s don’t, they notice those things and it matters to them.

Lisa Belisle:                          If you are a kid that needs this sort of help, but you live in a community where for whatever reason Falmouth or Cape Elizabeth or Yarmouth or Cumberland, there’s just some reason why you’re not going for help. What is it that those of us around you can be doing? Does this question make sense?

Donna Dwyer:                     Yes, it does. We have caregivers, other providers specifically kids with disabilities that will bring autism or maybe some mental health issues. They’ll actually bring our kids, there’s the two kids coming from Gray on a regular basis that will bring kids through our doors. But just a kid who’s feeling a little lost maybe not connected in an extracurricular way or some peer group, a healthy peer group. I think it’s up to the adults, the guidance counselors, social workers, the parents to say, “Hey, there’s a safe place after school, they keep the kids busy.” The kids may not know that we are imbuing them with character development and life skills, but we certainly are.

I think it’s up to the adults surrounding this kid whether it be a school adult or a parent adult didn’t know the resources in the community. And for us, I said we’re not just for Westbrook, we are for any kid from any community anywhere at any time.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you think that the challenges for children in this age group are different now than they once were?

Donna Dwyer:                     I do. And I think it’s different even in the six years that I’ve been with the center. And how it’s different truly I think is that the level of poverty is getting deeper. And I think that the opioid epidemic is prevalent, pervasive and poisonous and has a ripple effect on so many levels. And I noticed a change in my kids, not the ones that we’ve had for a while now, but the ones that are coming through the doors where there’s almost a sense of frailness to them that the level of desperation and the level of need that is available. Earlier in the summer, we had a field day where we invited families and the kids and we were just out, cookout and whatnot. And given this group for a number of reasons, parents aren’t often involved, the kids don’t want them there. Maybe the parents don’t want to be involved, so there’s a variety of reasons. This is the age group, did you want your parents around when you were in middle school or high school? No, you really didn’t.

These kids feel the same way. But I got to meet some of the families. And there were some of the parents that came and they were high. They were high in the middle of the day. And we had extra food, and not only were they eating that food, which was absolutely appropriate, but they wanted to take that food home with them, which was fine as well. But I got to see these parents in the state that the kids live with high day in and day out. And it reminded me why these kids are the way they are and what we have to do to change their paradigm, which is everything we can do.

Lisa Belisle:                          What keeps you going because this is not an easy job, and the word grit has been used a few times? This is a difficult situation, sometimes I’m sure you don’t have the successes you’d like to have. What keeps you showing up for work every day and investing in these children?

Donna Dwyer:                     I think I was raised with a work ethic, which was different from a lot of my Cape Elizabeth friends and peers. My parents instill a work ethic from a very young age, weekends were not for watching cartoons or sleepovers, we worked cleaning and for my grandmother, we constantly worked. Work ethic and a discipline was instilled in us from an early age. I had that inherent within me. This is heart work because you’re not in this to make the big bucks, you’re in this to change lives and in some instances save lives. And so, when that is presented in front of you, there really is no choice except to keep moving forward and to keep working it. And even when mistakes are made, to never give up.

And so, that is the discipline that we apply to ourselves and to keep us going and motivated that no matter what to keep going because even the organization itself is a successful thriving organization. We’ve really done a lot of really hard work in the past six years to change everything about the organization. But the organization lives hand to mouth too, funding is incredibly arduous for us and very fickle. And we’re always relying on the benevolence of others to change kids’ lives, to save lives. And believe it or not, a lot of people say no to us. Getting through that is the resilience that’s required of my team and myself is to have the resilience that even when you say no to me, you are going to say yes to me at some point.

I will knock down a brick wall. No means yes in my world, in my lexicon. And at some point, I will get a yes out of you, you will say yes to these kids. That’s the resilience that I require of myself and my staff. And then I play tennis six or seven days a week, and I’m a competitive tennis player. I captain teams, I compete. And that keeps me in this job and in this life and having my own hutzpah to make a difference.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I appreciate the work that you’re doing and the work that everybody at the My Place Teen Center is doing and I encourage people to learn more about My Place. And consider donating because if you don’t, Donna will find you and she will tell you more about her organization and you will be convinced, I’m certain of it.

Donna Dwyer:                     Thank you, Lisa.

Lisa Belisle:                          I appreciate you coming in today. I’ve been speaking with Donna Dwyer who is the CEO of the My Place Teen Center, a youth development program based in Westbrook. Thank you so much for all you do.

Donna Dwyer:                     We are thrilled and thank you so much for the opportunity.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street, the gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Ingen Jorgenson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Cory, Jill hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s old port where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Lisa Belisle:                          You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 339. Our guests have included Debbie Irving and Donna Dwyer. For more information on our guests and extended interviews visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio, we welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are happy that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee, our editorial producer is Kate Gardner, our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassik. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy. And our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #338: Lori Parham and Carolann Ouellette

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr.Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless and Moxie Magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 338, airing for the first time on Sunday, March 11th, 2018. Today we speak with Lori Parham, State Director of AARP Maine. We also speak with Carolann Ouellette, Executive Director of Maine Huts and Trails who previously served as the Director of the Maine Office of Tourism. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of The Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Lisa Belisle:                          Lori Parham is the AARP Maine’s State Director, leading the state’s advocacy and education efforts on health and financial security issues. She also oversees the organization’s efforts to engage cities and towns in creating livable communities for people of old ages with a specific focus on economic development and aging in place. Thanks for coming in today.

Lori Parham:                        It’s great to be here.

Lisa Belisle:                          I really love the work that you are doing with AARP because I think it’s a different approach than we typically see when we talk about longevity of life.

Lori Parham:                        Absolutely. We still have challenges when we talk about aging. There’s still a lot of assumptions around what it means to grow old or to be old, and even to talk about what that word means. At AARP and especially here in Maine we’re really working to change perceptions of aging and share the stories of people over 50 in the state who are doing amazing things.

Lisa Belisle:                          One of the interesting things for me having worked recently on our new Ageless Magazine is that people over the age of 50 are they’re not necessarily retired. They’re still working and in fact, a lot of people, my dad is 72, my mom is I think the same age, both of them are still actively working no less than they once were 20 years ago.

Lori Parham:                        That’s why we’re just AARP, we’re no longer the American Association of Retired Persons and we haven’t been for some time because a third of our members are still working. It’s not just folks between the ages of 50 and 64. We often hear people say, “I’m retiring at 65,” but as you said, people are working longer either because they really love being engaged and involved and want to and some because they don’t have a choice. They haven’t been able to put away enough for retirement and so they have to keep working in order to pay the bills and make sure that they will be secure in retirement.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve seen both of these things be true. I’ve seen both my parents be enthusiastically still teaching. My mom in middle school and my dad teaching medical students and residents and I ask them, “When are you going to retire?” They say, “Why? Why should I do that?” Then I also have had patients who have needed to either go back into the workforce or who have never been able to leave the workforce who are in their 70s and sometimes in their 80s. That leads to some interesting challenges though.

Lori Parham:                        It really does and we see both in Maine. Maine as the oldest state can really be a wonderful test case for aging and aging policy and workplace policy. We hear a lot of folks in Maine say, “We need to bring more young people to Maine.” I like to say AARP loves young people or members who have children, they have grandchildren, but there’s a lot of talent amongst people over 50. People between the ages of 50 and 64 are the largest growing age group of entrepreneurs and in Maine entrepreneurialism is so important and yet there is the demographic who is struggling. When we have surveyed older people in Maine a large number of them tell us they don’t know that they’ll ever be able to retire, that they will have to keep working.

Baby boomers have not saved the way they really needed to. Many people don’t understand that in retirement just to cover healthcare cost you need as much as $250,000 in savings. It’s really juggling the challenges that folks have but then also with that talking about the opportunities and the amazing things that people are doing. The fact that your dad is still teaching medical students, that’s such a wonderful thing especially in healthcare and there’s such a need.

Lisa Belisle:                          In addition to your undergraduate degree in sociology, you also have a masters in science and a PhD, so you are very well-versed in the academics of this. Why did you choose to focus your efforts on the aging community?

Lori Parham:                        I think in part because growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandmothers. My grandfathers both passed away very young and left families and one case with pretty young children. My grandmothers became fast friends and were part of my life from a very early age and I think I was comfortable around what was considered older people. As I looked into the issue surrounding aging and retirement, especially for women I just really became excited about the policy work and have been truly passionate about it ever since.

Lisa Belisle:                          Talk to me about some of the issues that women are facing.

Lori Parham:                        Well, a big one is caregiving. Men and women both care for aging parents but the majority of the work and this is unpaid work by daughters and wives and sisters is done by women. When you look at now especially with the aging of the baby boomers and if you look at Maine’s population, more and more women are falling into this category and as we project out there’s going to be more and more need. Often these women are also raising children. We call them the sandwich generation. They may have to leave the workforce in order to care for an aging parent which impacts their own ability to save to get those social security credits and to prepare for their own retirement. There are specific and special challenges as it relates to aging and long-term care for women as they care for others and then as they look at how they’re going to care for themselves.

That’s an area where we focus, also making sure that any caregiver has the resources they need. Where do you begin when something happens? Most of us don’t plan and then all of a sudden there’s a catastrophic event and how do we manage that. Then it ties into broader issues. We were talking about work, work and retirement, the ability to save, to find jobs that allow you to save. In Maine, we looked at some research to see how the folks in the state were saving and we’re way behind and not just amongst people over 50 but with our younger generations as well. There are a lot of issues, pretty intense policy issues to think about that hit a lot of sectors as we’re looking at what it means to grow old.

Lisa Belisle:                          Why is it that you think there is such resistance to a conversation about aging?

Lori Parham:                        It’s such a great question. Our CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins actually wrote a book and has really made it her mission to what she calls disrupt aging. The stereotypes go back a long way. When we think about pre-AARP, we’re 60 this year, the fact that older Americans really had no access to healthcare and retirement, medicare didn’t exist, [recast 00:09:10] historical stories about poor houses and where we placed older people. We’ve just really allowed those stereotypes to continue whether it’s actresses who are aged out of acting. The debate over gray hair or not. The assumptions that old means you’re walking around with a cane and can barely make it up the stairs. Yet you see how that’s just not necessarily the case but it takes … It’s language, it’s attitude, it’s education. It’s a constant effort to try to change the way we think about it. I get all the time, “Oh, I don’t feel old. You’re AARP, 50, really? For us age is just a number.” Our founder was 73 when she founded this great organization, but it’s not easy, it’s a constant battle.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s interesting to me that in this day and age we are more aware of people of different nationalities, we’re more aware of gender and not discriminating against people based on that, sexual orientation, I mean, the list goes on our awareness of all these things that we don’t want to be considered ist. We don’t want to be racist, for example. Isn’t not having an openness about people who are older, isn’t that just ageist? Isn’t that just another group for us to discriminate against?

Lori Parham:                        It is. It is, and it’s been fun through our work on disrupting aging, and Jo Ann, she decided to tackle this because I think she saw the potential across everything else we work on. We’ve got a wonderful video of millennials showing what they think it means to be old and the basic walking with a cane and then they bring in to each one of these individuals an older person who is a dancer or a boxer and these are folks in their 70s, 80s and 90s and just to see the light bulb go off for these young people was pretty amazing. It’s really going to take I think an ongoing concerted effort. We hear a lot about how baby boomers are really going to change these perceptions but when they’re all around you, radio, TV, ad campaigns, it’s going to take a concerted effort I think across sectors to really see change.

Lisa Belisle:                          Why is aging in place important?

Lori Parham:                        First and foremost, we know that’s where people want to be and when we say aging in place we mean at home and in the community. As folks grow older, if they have a choice between institutional care and the community they love, they want to be in the community even if they can’t be in their own home, they want to be right there. Especially in Maine where community is so important. It’s what people want. It also is good for local economies. The longer people stay at home and in the communities they love, the more they’re involved and active in civic life and social life. They’re spending money in their communities. My grandmother who I lost just a year ago, if she didn’t get her hair done every week, that was the most important thing and that was helping a local business and there are a lot of folks like her.

It really does help build that sense of community. Social participation is so important. We have new research out of our foundation that shows the social isolation really can decrease longevity and that that’s so important for people to be connected. Being able to spend those last years your final years at a place that is safe but connected is just really important to people.

Lisa Belisle:                          I absolutely have seen this as a doctor, the patients that come in to see me who don’t have close family members, who may be have moved to the community relatively recently don’t have close friends, the loneliness that they feel it absolutely impacts not only their emotional and psychological health but their physical health. It has this far-reaching implication that I think it’s important for us to address.

Lori Parham:                        Absolutely, isolation is the leading cause for dementia as well and we hear from people. We have started hosting social events, coffees and happy hours to help bring people together and the number of folks who’ve said, “I just moved here,” or, “I just retired, I’m having to build a new network and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to meet other people like me,” and we’re seeing friendships develop and more interest in taking those activities even further. We’re doing what we can to help build the social connections where we can because no one should age alone.

Lisa Belisle:                          Talk to me about age-friendly communities. What types of things would such a community offer to someone who is attempting to age in place?

Lori Parham:                        The work that we’re doing in the age-friendly space is really situated around multiple domains of livability we call them. Everything from affordable housing and not just low income housing but middle income housing and also housing that’s accessible that’s near services. You think of Maine and how rural we are and how difficult it could be for an older person who’s way down along the road in a big rambling farmhouse, that doesn’t make it very easy to be connected. Transportation which ties into that, the ability to get around when you should no longer be driving and access to, if you’re in a very rural area and you don’t have the services that a metro would provide, ways to get places whether it’s through a volunteer program or other. Social participation, what are the kinds of activities that a community has to bring people together.

I should emphasize that an age-friendly community isn’t just for, “older people.” Our view is that the kinds of services and support you put into place for someone over 50 or over 65 is just as good for young family. If you think about public spaces and parks and playgrounds and trails and exercise equipment, if you think about sidewalks, making sure the snow is cleared in the winter, that’s good for an older person who may walk with a cane or just walk more slowly or have a little trouble with balance but it’s good for a young mother who’s also carrying one child and pushing a stroller.

Civic engagement and employment, whether it’s mentoring or recognizing the value that people over 50 bring to the workforce and looking at policies and programs that support the 50 plus worker who may be caregiving for example so flexible work arrangements, telecommuting, looking at different types of leave that support a caregiver who may need to take time off. It’s really a range of policies. We like to talk about broadband and how disconnected a lot of Maine is, that’s another important issue that really come together to make a community more age-friendly. Of course, if you’re Portland, it’s going to look different than it will in Bethel or Skowhegan and so you’ve got to take in account the close community ties as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          Are there benefits to having multiple generations interacting on a regular basis?

Lori Parham:                        We see in some of the programs that we’re seeing across the country, we’ll take the workplace for example, there’s been some good research that shows a multi generational workforce is good for business. There’s a good return on investment because you have different attitudes, different approaches, the ability for people to mentor, older people to mentor younger. Also, vice verse. Let’s think about technology. Also, we see that in the area of social isolation and connectedness too. There’s a real movement to think about housing and supports community where you could have an after school program tied to a community center where retirees may go for art classes.

Also, looking at how the two generations can mentor each other outside of the workforce. We’ve got this great program going on in Augusta where the age-friendly committee, all retirees, is working with the girls and boys club teaching them sewing. This is a skill that they’re using to sew hats and gloves and scarves for people who need an extra layer in the winter. Whether or not this group of kids ends up taking on sewing as a career, it’s a skill, it’s tactical, it’s a place to focus energy and through that time together they’re connecting with folks they may not have otherwise connected with. Hearing their stories, maybe getting a little bit of advice.

Lisa Belisle:                          You mentioned that you have a comfort level with people who are older starting with your grandmothers when you were a child, why is it that some people don’t have a comfort with older people?

Lori Parham:                        That’s a really good question. It could be that they never had the opportunity like I did to spend time around people who are older. I think there can be some fear. It can be difficult to watch people grow old especially if they have chronic health issues, that can be scary, I’m just going to say that. It can be easier to avoid that. While any of us can be impacted at any age, we tend to associate old age with end of life and that’s part of I think looking at how we can reframe that. That just because you’re growing older doesn’t mean your life is ending. What I love about Ageless Maine is the opportunity to profile some of these people in Maine who may be 70, 80, 90 but are still active or engaged in giving back. When you can spend time with them I think some of that fear goes away.

Lisa Belisle:                          I actually found when I was working on Ageless Maine with the rest of the editorial team that there were many people that we were talking about that were probably healthier than a lot of people who are far younger because they were so engaged and they were so passionate about the things that they were doing. Whether it was the woman that I wrote about for the wearable technology story or whether it was the woodchuck story that Susan Axelrod wrote. I think it’s often said that age is just a state of mind. I’m not sure that’s exactly true but I certainly do believe that there’s a way that we can look at things that influences the way that we live.

Lori Parham:                        I would agree and the woodchuck and that was just such a lovely story. Think about the social connectedness there. These gentlemen are physically active in state and then a community they clearly love, they’re doing this work together. We also know the benefits of volunteering, they’re doing something for other people. You put those together and that’s a really good combination for longevity. Sometimes I think I’m probably healthier now than I was when I was 20 or probably even 30 and I think sometimes it takes a little time to recognize how to prioritize and where to focus. Sadly, there are folks who are older who really are struggling with chronic illness and disease. Then there’s also the question of what are the policies, what can be done to make sure that those patients you see can get some relief and that we can start to address some of those issues sooner in Maine and frankly across the country.

Lisa Belisle:                          That is an important point that aging can really manifest itself in many different ways so I think because a lot of older people when they’re feeling healthy they don’t come to the doctor. I will see older people who come to see me and they will often say it is very difficult to get old. It is really hard because it seems like one thing after another, after another. They feel as if their bodies are failing them. It can be very expensive. They spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices. I agree that trying to find a way to support them through all of this is going to present different challenges than it might if it was a younger person accessing the healthcare system. What can we do specifically in healthcare to help people who are trying to work through aging?

Lori Parham:                        We hear a lot about prevention and when I talk about Medicare to folks in the community and to our members and the importance of insuring that people are going to the doctor, that they are getting that primary care, the more we do to stave off diabetes for example which cost the Medicare program billions of dollars then that’s going to help the sustainability of the program which will invest more dollars into those preventative measures. It’s the healthcare component and boy, that could be a conversation for multiple hours but that’s why we’re also looking at the community component. Health and supportive services are one of the domains that we look at in communities. Outside of government programs depending on what you have for insurance, that can be very expensive. What can you be doing and what can a community offer through public spaces and parks.

I love that our colleagues in Bethel have an indoor walking program in winter for older people to make sure that they’re still getting exercise. We decided to host a Tai chi class because we had a volunteer willing to teach it and we’re amazed at how many people came out. There are a lot of no cost, low cost things that communities can do to offer and granted that’s just the wellness piece. It’s not going to solve all of the problems but there’s a lot of great research out there that says if you get up and you move, if you’re a little more thoughtful about what you eat, if you get up and you move but you do it with a friend in terms of your mental health that that could have a really positive impact on a longer life and a healthier life.

Lisa Belisle:                          Obviously there are a lot of different places that you could focus because this is an enormous topic. What is one thing that you would like to see changed as regards to aging?

Lori Parham:                        Goodness. There’s enough out there that I should be able to work for a very long time. I love the work that we’re doing in communities because it’s bigger than just healthcare. As I look at the aging of Maine, as I hear debates about Maine’s economy and what the state needs, I continue and really believe not just because I work for AARP to make the case that people over 50 are hugely important to Maine and the economy. We’ve done some work with Oxford Economics nationally on the longevity economy and this is the purchasing power and the GDP of people over 50. They’re buying more in tech believe it or not. They pay more in healthcare. They give back more charitably. They’re paying more in taxes.

That age group is hugely important. Their children are the millennials and research shows that they want a lot of the same things. Access to be able to walk to where you want to go, public spaces, cultural activities, music. When I think about this body of work, if we can get out of a mindset that it’s just about older people, that it can turn some people off in some sectors. We talk about how that infrastructure can then impact the next generation and the next generation. I think that makes for a really exciting future of Maine. There are so many issues to tackle and we’ll continue to work on all of them but I’m really excited about this work because it involves people in community and it showcases how deeply people care about where they live.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking with Lori Parham who is the AARP Maine’s State Director leading the state’s advocacy and education efforts on health and financial security issues. She also oversees the organization’s efforts to engage cities and towns in creating livable communities for people of old ages with a specific focus on economic development and aging in place. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing and for coming in today.

Lori Parham:                        It’s great talking with you.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at

Lisa Belisle:                          Carolann Ouellette joined Maine Huts and Trails as Executive Director in January of 2017 and she previously served as Director at the Maine Office of Tourism. Thanks for coming in.

Carolann O.:                         Thanks so much for having me. This is great.

Lisa Belisle:                          I think they were pretty sad to see you go from the Maine Office of Tourism from what I understand.

Carolann O.:                         That’s always nice to have a legacy like that. Certainly, it was an amazing opportunity for me and an incredible team, everything from the internal team to all the people in the industry across the state and even the people that we worked with under contract, just really creative, energetic, passionate people about Maine which was made it so much fun.

Lisa Belisle:                          What I guess convinced you that you should jump over to Maine Huts and Trails?

Carolann O.:                         That’s a great question. I give lot of the credit of the convincing to quite honestly our board chair, Bob Peixotto who spent quite a bit of time talking to me about Maine Huts and Trails and the opportunities, and the place in which it sits now as having been really open to the public for 10 years but it was really for me a love of that whole western mountains region of Maine. I’ve been a resident of Jackman for almost 30 years with a few stints in Millinocket and Sugarloaf, but that’s always Maine holds a special place overall but that kind of area from the New Hampshire border up across from Moosehead and out towards Millinocket has always held a very special spot in my heart.

It was a big of a challenge to take an opportunity of really taking all that I had learned from the marketing perspective, the connectivity, all the networking, all the people that I had met at my time at the office of tourism and really kind of put almost theory into practice. Taking bits and pieces of experiences throughout my lifetime, everything from the time at Cornell, at the hotel school through working for Matt Polstein at New England Outdoor Center, running my own restaurant, there were all these tidbits of experiences that really covered everything that is Maine Huts and Trails with some new challenges on top of it.

Lisa Belisle:                          I want to ask you about the new challenges but first I’m interested in why you decided that you want to go to Cornell, to the school of hotel administration.

Carolann O.:                         I was looking at a few schools. It really ended up being fortuitous in the sense that I originally wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps and be a pilot. That just wasn’t working out the way I had planned originally in high school. I got my license but didn’t go a whole lot further. Cornell, it had a lot of allure just from the size of the school itself. Obviously, I was fortunate to be accepted to an Ivy League school but it was one of the ones that had in my mind the broader diversity across the different campuses and the different colleges within the university. I didn’t originally go for the hotel school. I wanted to do international relations and economics and discovered a lot of freshmen, fellow freshmen that were in the hotel administration program and I just thought, “Wow, that is a really, really fascinating career path to be able to follow,” and what better place. Again, really fortuitous.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s interesting. When you’re a freshman in that program, what types of classes are you taking?

Carolann O.:                         I wasn’t able to transfer until my sophomore year and you start out with a pretty broad range of curriculum. It had everything from early on. We had a food science course. We had intro to food preparation. We had intro to marketing classes. We had psychology classes. Intro to accounting and finance. We covered things I think in my first year even you had an intro to hotel design and engineering. You had real estate courses. You had almost three years of on and off engineering and design. You had a lot of management courses that’s why the psychology and how to manage people and how to build teams there was an incredible amount around the food piece as well but most of it was really and a lot around the marketing HR. Again, how to manage people. Real estate, quite a bit in real estate and finance and because it was so multi disciplinary, you really had a broad base to come out of there recognizing you could specialize or you could go into the broader field itself. We were required to do a number of humanities courses and then throughout the time, summers were spent really trying to make sure that you are finding jobs inside the industry.

Lisa Belisle:                          Where did you grow up?

Carolann O.:                         I grew up in New Jersey.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you’re growing up, did you think, “Oh, I think I’d like to go into this field,” or did you think, “I’m going to be a pilot like my dad”?

Carolann O.:                         No, I pretty much figured I would try and fly like my dad. I wanted to travel. I knew I wanted to somehow be engaged in travel tourism, something like that. The international relation sort of economics piece I felt coming out of high school was a way to open up the opportunity to travel. That has always been my first love and I really did not anticipate, I didn’t consider myself a people person necessarily. The whole concept of hotel administration hospitality and all of that seemed a little bit outside of who I was as an individual. Again, it was one of those pathways that in so many respects just hit so many passion points for me. It was just one of those places and times where the fact that I ended up at Cornell and that was the home of the school of hotel administration was just a remarkable opportunity.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s such an interesting contrast to say I’m not a people person and then do the work that you do. All the things that you just described they require so much time with people.

Carolann O.:                         They do.

Lisa Belisle:                          Have you developed into a people person or you’ve just decided, “You know what? I probably always was a people person,” and just not necessarily like super extrovert.

Carolann O.:                         I think that describes it really quite well. I have grown in so many different ways over the course of time. Primarily because of the different experiences professionally that I’ve had through my lifetime and really it’s interesting even when I graduated from Cornell I still wasn’t necessarily a people person. My love at the point of graduation was really back at the house on the food and beverage side of things. I followed that a little bit but not until much later when I had my own restaurant but it’s still was something I gravitated more to sort of behind the scenes than I did out front. The juxtaposition really came when I ended up at the Office of Tourism and that primarily started as behind the scenes in essence hiring, I was hired as deputy director really to support all the activities of the office and the director herself.

When the director position was offered to me, obviously it was something I was not going to turn down but it really stepped up my ability to interact with people on a regular basis, be out in front of people and really change that dynamic. I think basically I’ve been good with networking over my years of where I’ve been and what I’ve done and a lot of what I had done I pushed myself to be in that landscape so that I’d see opportunity and have new projects ahead and just one thing lead to another. I’ve certainly had a chance to grow at each position that I’ve held and that’s been so rewarding from a lifestyle perspective.

Lisa Belisle:                          How did you go from being, I don’t know where you lived in New Jersey, I know there’s some wilderness in New Jersey but not a ton but to somebody who really loves Jackman and Millinocket and western Maine and really not as populated areas where you came from.

Carolann O.:                         That’s certainly true and it’s interesting. My family, I really have had the best of so many worlds because my grandparents own a business in New York City so we spent a lot of time as children, the special events, birthdays, everything else going to theater, doing a lot of fun museum hopping all the way around to the cultural experience of New York City and what it has to offer. We did live towards the western, north western side of New Jersey so out towards the Delaware Water Gap and spent a lot of time in the outdoors as children. My grandparents had a weekend as it turned out to be a retirement place that was 60 plus acres of tree farm. I remember growing up with Audubon and nature conservancy magazines across the coffee tables. It was really a love of the outdoors.

They originally went with friends from New York to a place in Jackman in the 50s called Attean Lake Lodge. My mother then took us as children and that was the first place really that I ended up working because I love the whole concept of being on an island in a lake. Very remote. Quite pampered I would say from the style of service and guest experience but really just being able to escape and I think that goes that’s a little bit of that counter yes I’m a people person but I also love the solitude and wonderful openness of the wilderness or the Maine woods. It’s not even necessarily wilderness but just being out in the natural landscape.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s actually what Maine Huts and Trails offers, isn’t it? That you have the wilderness.

Carolann O.:                         Right.

Lisa Belisle:                          Then you also offer a place where people can be, can stay and there’s usually other people there. It is that contrast, that juxtaposition.

Carolann O.:                         It is and I think that’s what makes Maine Huts and Trails fairly special in what that guest experience becomes and it’s different for different people but it really is the opportunity to be in the outdoors. Push yourself a little bit if you’d like to depending upon your skill level but recognizing that you’ve got a bit of support in the sense that you’re on marked trails, you’re getting a back country experience without necessarily having to worry too much about where you’re headed and what you’re doing because at the end of the day you’re headed for one of the huts. Huts we’ve often internally it’s a bit of a misnomer, more of a wilderness lodge. When you get to the lodge you can either find your own personal space or there’s just an incredible sense of camaraderie when you’re inside where other people are joining you.

It’s a family style meal service. You’re getting to know the hut staff that live there. There’s a lot of personal interaction. Often we hear stories of families that have met at the huts and continue then to either return as a trip to the special place that they met and or even spend time together in their regular lives outside of Maine Huts and Trails. It is very much a time to really be with yourself, disconnect, yet at the same time spend time with new friends, family, and loved ones.

Lisa Belisle:                          There’s been a lot of growth over the last several years with Maine Huts and Trails from what I understand.

Carolann O.:                         There has. It’s interesting, this year in, if I’m not mistaken about two weeks will be the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first hut which was the Poplar Stream Hut. The first three were built fairly quickly one right after the other so Poplar Stream then Flagstaff Hut not long thereafter. Then the Grand Falls Hut which is out on the Dead River. Then the last hut that was built was open about four years ago, so Stratton Brook. Really it was a pretty fast track in getting those four up and the trail connectivity all laid out. It’s really been about building the visitation and also building on the mission and the long range goals around the environmental stewardship and bringing young people into the outdoors and getting them to understand conservation and how important all that is to the landscape. Right now we’re 10 years in. What’s next? That was really one of the exciting parts about the attractiveness of the opportunity really is being able to play a role in where it goes from here.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s a very different role than the beginning of an organization. In the beginning it’s kind of entrepreneurial, it’s hit the ground running, it’s let’s see what we can … I guess it’s a younger organization.

Carolann O.:                         Right.

Lisa Belisle:                          Ten years in it’s a more mature organization so it’s almost as if it’s two different things that you’re dealing with.

Carolann O.:                         That’s really interesting. It is different in the sense of yeah everything is go, go, go, modeling it out, figuring out what’s going to work. Particularly as I’m learning because the non-profit world is new to me so that hence one of the challenges, that’s something I have not done in my past, working with funders, figuring out how this is all going to play out. I think of Dave Herring and I had met many of the founder and some of the founding board members and Dave Herring when he was the first executive director. I start at the Office of Tourism about the same time they opened Poplar hut but 10 years, interesting I’ve learned life cycles of non-profits so 10 years can almost be viewed as yes we have some maturity. We’ve got brand recognition, people, there is continuation of those that have been so supportive of us through that whole time and then there’s the next generation.

Not next generation necessarily in people but next iteration of the model and how do we … Is the original model, there’s conversations we have at different levels, is the original model the linear huts and trail system 10 years later? Is that still a model? Looking at connectivity, communities, what else is across the landscape, what’s changed in the 10 years from the time that we opened our doors at Poplar and even the concept goes back so much further than that. Larry Warren’s initial vision, building the support to even bring it to reality. Yes, more entrepreneurial probably in its beginnings at the inception but still now at a point of really having an opportunity to move it into the next generation.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are some of the challenges?

Carolann O.:                         Some of the challenges personally for me is just understanding how the non-profit world works versus I mean I’ve done four profit, I’ve done public service and the non-profit piece I really I think as I learn how it all plays together is it’s sometimes it’s just different terminology than the four profit world. You have so many of the donors and funders and supporters, I suppose you could look at it in some respects as investors but at certainly very different expectation at the end. It’s meeting a whole new network of people. Really the people that I had some interaction with just at the Office of Tourism recognizing that we do have non-profits inside the state of Maine that are also providing guest experiences.

There were some crossover but really not as much knowledge as I thought I might have moving into it. I had the guest experience piece and the travel and tourism piece and the marketing pieces in place but really learning how do you … The process of having members, the process of working regularly with all the different people who have made commitments and are personally really invested in the organization and the foundations that support us. It’s a really broad network of people that help make a non-profit run and so that’s been a wonderful learning curve for me.

Lisa Belisle:                          I remember that Dave Herring was probably one of our early guest.

Carolann O.:                         Great.

Lisa Belisle:                          Long time ago and now I believe he’s at Wolfe Neck.

Carolann O.:                         Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          He’s doing good work over there.

Carolann O.:                         Amazing.

Lisa Belisle:                          He was young and enthusiastic and you could just see him like out on the trails. I think he had a small child at that time.

Carolann O.:                         He did, yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          He just embodied this wilderness, this vision of wilderness. You have your own version of that. In addition to being the executive director, you’re also a very outdoorsy person like this is a place that you love to be.

Carolann O.:                         I think that was one of the other things that attracted me to the position is at the Office of Tourism it’s funny there have been different times the Office of Tourism was an opportunity to learn the broad landscape. I mean, I got to go pretty much almost every place in Maine. I got to meet an incredible breath of individuals that are providing guest experiences across the landscape. On top of that, it actually enabled me to learn more at the national level. It provided me with the opportunity. We become part of the National Council of State Tourism Directors so you’re learning from colleagues across all 50 states. We’re part of the U.S. Travel Association so learning at the national scale what’s driving travel and tourism, what is important from a policy perspective along with what’s really important from a market destination, marketing perspective, what’s trending.

I’ve always loved to be in the outdoors and a lot of that started early as we mentioned but it really came into play the Attean Lake Lodge piece certainly just wondering and exploring on my own but working for Matt Polstein at New England Outdoor Center in many ways has been such a mentor. Recognizing that there’s business that can be done as part of a passion related to the outdoors and outdoor recreation and providing a truly unique guest experience in a place where people may not have considered visiting at other times. I mean, the fascination about the Maine woods for me is the balance of the working forest landscape, the traditions when you think of Fly Rod Crosby, the Registered Maine Guide, those traditional sports that came from afar really into the north Maine woods guided through all kind of different experiences. To be able to carry on that tradition yet do it as the trends evolve and guest experiences and expectations evolve and continue to play that out is really, really a fascinating component.

Lisa Belisle:                          From what I understand, you can take advantage of Maine Huts and Trails really anytime of the year. Even in the deepest, coldest, darkest part of winter you actually encourage people to go out there and participate.

Carolann O.:                         We do. It’s about embracing winter, that’s a big piece and honestly Maine Huts and Trails if I’m not mistaken really started more as a back country winter experience. The idea was to develop this trail network that provided for a cross-country ski, I think initially more or less a cross-country ski experience from hut to hut based on many of the European models as you see them across the landscape. It’s interesting how it evolved in recognizing the growth in outdoor recreation overall. Really, people’s move to healthier lifestyles and using the outdoors as a way to really live better I think in many respects and the recognition also was to be a sustainable organization or work towards that at some point in time doing just three months a year where you’ve got some pretty remarkable structures out there and people who really want to work and be part of that wasn’t going to be necessarily as viable as if you became year-round.

They started as cross-country skiing but as I back up and think about the mission, the original mission and it still holds true today is really to be a year-round outdoor recreation resource of national significance. It was intended to be year-round but it started with the winter piece first. Over the years considerable investment has been placed into the sustainability of the trails themselves. Winter, it’s great, you’re on snow so you’re not impacting the landscape as much as when you start hiking and biking and doing other things through the trail network. The investment has been really about build out but also surface areas and drainage and making sure that that trail system is really very solid for the long-term.

Lisa Belisle:                          It seems as though you would need to continue to have conversations with multiple different players in this. I mean, we have in the winter we have snowmobilers, we have cross-country skiers, the fat tire bikers are out pretty much all year-round. I mean, everybody’s got slightly different take on what it means to have a nice trail.

Carolann O.:                         I think that’s probably true. I mean, for us, we’re focused on the people-powered recreation. We have certainly our trails managers, Savannah Steele and the trails manager ahead of her, Jason Cooke spent time really working with all the user groups even where we intersect with the snowmobile trails or the ATV trails. Just understanding that we’re all playing across the same area but the different user groups, it’s interesting. I think it’s more about the passion and being in the outdoors and following the pursuit that you love best but recognizing that we’re all in it together and we just want to be out there having fun. We see multiple users across the system particular as you mention in non-winter and even now in winter the fat tire piece has just grown dramatically.

A lot of investment has been made not just by us but also by the town of Carrabassett Valley, the Carrabassett region doing the mountain biking association club, Sugarloaf, we’re all in a group together called Carrabassett Valley Trails which is pooling resources to expand the mountain biking system. Looking again at that summer primarily because the area has been known back to winter the area has been known as a winter destination. How do you become more year-round as a region as well. It’s fun to see when you’re out there you’ll have a family that’s snowshoeing, you’ve got some cross-country skiers coming by. We lay track in the winter. The other day we had 20 fat bikers coming through the system from Stratton Brook to Poplar so it actually when you get to the hut you’ve got all these different people interacting that have come to the hut by different modes of people-powered activity but they just love being in the outdoors.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been doing this for a little more than a year now.

Carolann O.:                         Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          Hopefully, you’ll be doing it for many years to come but what are you looking forward to the most in this year?

Carolann O.:                         In this year, that’s a good question. It’s funny, the first year has been so much of a learning absorption period. I think if anything for me personally I’m looking forward to actually moving into the what’s next phase rather than just learning and I’ll always be learning so I should take that back. For me, I’d like a personal thing at training that I told the hut staff that we do a three to four day training with new hut staff each season. One of the things was I definitely wanted to spend more time with them out on the trails and in the huts so again, less time out there figuring out who all the players are and how I need to interact with a lot of new different people but also being able to actually participate in the activities, they are so much a part of who we are.

The other piece for me is getting to know those that have been such strong supporters of the organization throughout its 10 years plus at this point. I still have a lot of introductions and people to meet and stories to hear and stories to tell. The next year will really be more about that than anything. I was able to do some of that in the first year. It was so much shepherding from our board and other people that are very, very active in the organization but then there’s so many people still that I haven’t met that have been very engaged over 10 plus years that are either regular guest or regular members or fairly sizable supporters. That’s going to be really important to me and really starting to lay out what the next steps are.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking with Carolann Ouellette who joined Maine Huts and Trails as Executive Director in January of 2017 and previously served at the Director of Maine Office of Tourism. Thank you very much for coming in and having this conversation today.

Carolann O.:                         Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Lisa.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of The Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 338. Our guests have included Lori Parham and Carolann Ouellette. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

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